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Usefulness of language and memory testing during intracarotid amobarbital testing: observations from an fMRI study


Dr A. P. Aldenkamp, Epilepsy Centre Kempenhaeghe and Department of Neurology Maastricht University Hospital, PO Box 61, NL-5590 AB Heeze, The Netherlands Tel.: +31 40 2279233 Fax: +31 40 2260426 e-mail:


Background – Several procedures for testing language lateralization and memory function exist during the intracarotid amobarbital test (IAT). The use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) gives the opportunity to assess the validity of some of these procedures, or at least to inspect the neuronal correlates. A comprehensive fMRI protocol was tested, aimed at addressing aspects of lateralization of language, as well as testing memory in relation to activation of mesiotemporal regions. Here we report observations with possible consequences for the current IAT procedures.

Materials and methods – The protocol consisted of three language tasks (overt naming, semantic decision and silent word generation) and two memory tasks (encoding and retrieving visual scenes). The paradigms used a block-related procedure in nine right-handed normal volunteers. During the procedure dynamic inline image weighted full brain images were acquired which are sensitive to the blood oxygenation activation effect.

Results – Encoding showed symmetrical bilateral activation in the mesiotemporal regions, specifically the hippocampus, parahippocampal gyrus and fusiform gyrus. With a retrieval task activation of the mesiotemporal areas was restricted to the posterior hippocampal area. Overt object naming showed results, similar to encoding tasks with bilateral activation of hippocampal areas. Silent word generation showed much stronger ability to lateralize than the other two language-related tasks and especially object naming.

Conclusion – Activation revealed by fMRI activation shows that IAT procedures, using active semantic language processing or comprehensive procedures with multiple language tasks have the highest guarantee for individual activation lateralization. Simple object naming does not guarantee a lateralized language fMRI activation pattern. Of the different memory procedures during IAT, the procedures (Interview and the Montreal) demanding encoding processing will be related to larger areas of bilateral hippocampal activation than procedures (Seattle) exclusively requiring retrieval. Moreover, tasks using recognition of previously presented language items (naming objects) are equally effective for assessing hippocampal activation compared with presenting separate memory items.