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Keywords:

  • language production;
  • functional magnetic resonance imaging;
  • gender congruency effect;
  • determiner congruency effect;
  • syntax;
  • gender;
  • speech latencies;
  • overt speech;
  • picture word interference paradigm;
  • fMRI

Abstract

In language production, naming a picture with a gender-marked determiner phrase is faster in the presence of a distractor noun with the same grammatical gender (congruent condition) as compared with a different grammatical gender (incongruent condition). We investigated the neural correlates of this determiner congruency effect in German with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Participants named pictures of real objects with determiner phrases (e.g. “der Tisch”—the table) in the presence of a gender-congruent or gender-incongruent distractor noun. Different comparisons allow the following functional segregation within the prefrontal cortex. First, the comparison between picture naming versus rest revealed a steeper slope of the haemodynamic response function (HRF) in the gender-congruent than the gender-incongruent condition in the left BA 44, suggesting the involvement of BA 44 in determiner selection. HRF amplitude differences between the congruent and the incongruent condition were observed outside the language network in the right fronto-median wall (congruent > incongruent), and in the left premotor cortex, middle frontal gyrus, cerebellum, and inferior parietal lobe (incongruent > congruent). The latter regions are known to be involved in the processing of incongruence and conflict in general. The data thus reveal the involvement of the left BA 44 in the selection of determiners for language production. Hum Brain Mapp, 2009. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.