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Brain Network Connectivity During Language Comprehension: Interacting Linguistic and Perceptual Subsystems.

ABSTRACT

The dynamic neural processes underlying spoken language comprehension require the real-time integration of general perceptual and specialized linguistic information. We recorded combined electro- and magnetoencephalographic measurements of participants listening to spoken words varying in perceptual and linguistic complexity. Combinatorial linguistic complexity processing was consistently localized to left perisylvian cortices, whereas competition-based perceptual complexity triggered distributed activity over both hemispheres. Functional connectivity showed that linguistically complex words engaged a distributed network of oscillations in the gamma band (20-60 Hz), which only partially overlapped with the network supporting perceptual analysis. Both processes enhanced cross-talk between left temporal regions and bilateral pars orbitalis (BA47). The left-lateralized synchrony between temporal regions and pars opercularis (BA44) was specific to the linguistically complex words, suggesting a specific role of left frontotemporal cross-cortical interactions in morphosyntactic computations. Synchronizations in oscillatory dynamics reveal the transient coupling of functional networks that support specific computational processes in language comprehension.