Processing of lexical verbs involves automatic access to argument structure entries entailed within the verb's representation. Recent neuroimaging studies with young normal listeners suggest that this involves bilateral posterior peri-sylvian tissue, with graded activation in these regions on the basis of argument structure complexity. The aim of the present study was to examine the neural mechanisms of verb processing using fMRI in older normal volunteers and patients with stroke-induced agrammatic aphasia, a syndrome in which verb, as compared to noun, production often is selectively impaired, but verb comprehension in both on-line and off-line tasks is spared. Fourteen healthy listeners and five age-matched aphasic patients performed a lexical decision task, which examined verb processing by argument structure complexity, namely, one-argument [i.e., intransitive (v1)], two-argument [i.e., transitive (v2)], and three-argument (v3) verbs. Results for the age-matched listeners largely replicated those for younger participants studied by Thompson et al. [Thompson, C. K., Bonakdarpour, B., Fix, S. C., Blumenfeld, H. K., Parrish, T. B., Gitelman, D. R., et al. Neural correlates of verb argument structure processing. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 19, 1753–1767, 2007]: v3 − v1 comparisons showed activation of the angular gyrus in both hemispheres and this same heteromodal region was activated in the left hemisphere in the (v2 + v3) − v1 contrast. Similar results were derived for the agrammatic aphasic patients, however, activation was unilateral (in the right hemisphere for three participants) rather than bilateral, likely because these patients' lesions extended to the left temporo-parietal region. All performed the task with high accuracy and, despite differences in lesion site and extent, they recruited spared tissue in the same regions as healthy subjects. Consistent with psycholinguistic models of sentence processing, these findings indicate that the posterior language network is engaged for processing verb argument structure and is crucial for semantic integration of argument structure information.

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