Lesion-symptom Mapping of Acceptability Judgments in Chronic Poststroke Aphasia Reveals the Neurobiological Underpinnings of Receptive Syntax

Danielle Fahey, Julius Fridriksson, Gregory Hickok, William Matchin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Disagreements persist regarding the neural basis of syntactic processing, which has been linked both to inferior frontal and posterior temporal regions of the brain. One focal point of the debate concerns the role of inferior frontal areas in receptive syntactic ability, which is mostly assessed using sentence comprehension involving complex syntactic structures, a task that is potentially confounded with working memory. Syntactic acceptability judgments may provide a better measure of receptive syntax by reducing the need to use high working memory load and complex sentences and by enabling assessment of various types of syntactic violations. We therefore tested the perception of grammatical violations by people with poststroke aphasia (n = 25), along with matched controls (n = 16), using English sentences involving errors in word order, agreement, or sub-categorization. Lesion data were also collected. Control participants performed near ceiling in accuracy with higher discriminability of agreement and subcategorization violations than word order; aphasia participants were less able to discriminate violations, but, on average, paralleled control participants discriminability of types of violations. Lesion-symptom mapping showed a correlation between discriminability and posterior temporal regions, but not inferior frontal regions. We argue that these results diverge from models holding that frontal areas are amodal core regions in syntactic structure building and favor models that posit a core hierarchical system in posterior temporal regions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1141-1155
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2024


  • Humans
  • Male
  • Aphasia/physiopathology
  • Female
  • Stroke/complications
  • Middle Aged
  • Aged
  • Judgment/physiology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Comprehension/physiology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Semantics
  • Speech Perception/physiology
  • Adult


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