• language comprehension;
  • fMRI;
  • syntax;
  • case processing;
  • Basque


The aim of this event-related fMRI study was to investigate the cortical networks involved in case processing, an operation that is crucial to language comprehension yet whose neural underpinnings are not well-understood. What is the relationship of these networks to those that serve other aspects of syntactic and semantic processing? Participants read Basque sentences that contained case violations, number agreement violations or semantic anomalies, or that were both syntactically and semantically correct. Case violations elicited activity increases, compared to correct control sentences, in a set of parietal regions including the posterior cingulate, the precuneus, and the left and right inferior parietal lobules. Number agreement violations also elicited activity increases in left and right inferior parietal regions, and additional activations in the left and right middle frontal gyrus. Regions-of-interest analyses showed that almost all of the clusters that were responsive to case or number agreement violations did not differentiate between these two. In contrast, the left and right anterior inferior frontal gyrus and the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex were only sensitive to semantic violations. Our results suggest that whereas syntactic and semantic anomalies clearly recruit distinct neural circuits, case, and number violations recruit largely overlapping neural circuits and that the distinction between the two rests on the relative contributions of parietal and prefrontal regions, respectively. Furthermore, our results are consistent with recently reported contributions of bilateral parietal and dorsolateral brain regions to syntactic processing, pointing towards potential extensions of current neurocognitive theories of language. Hum Brain Mapp, 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.