Little is known about language impairment in brain tumor patients, especially in the presurgical phase. Impairment in this population may be missed because standardized tests fail to capture mild deficits. Additionally, neuroplasticity may also contribute to minimizing language impairments. We examined 14 presurgical patients with brain tumors in the language-dominant hemisphere using magnetoencephalography (MEG) while they performed a demanding picture–word interference task, that is, participants name pictures while ignoring distractor words. Brain tumor patients had behavioral picture-naming effects typically observed in healthy controls. The MEG responses also showed the expected pattern in its timing and amplitude modulation typical of controls, but with an altered spatial distribution of right hemisphere sources, in contrast to the classic left hemisphere source found in healthy individuals. This finding supports tumor-induced neural reorganization of language before surgery. Crucially, the use of electrophysiology allowed us to show the “same” neuronal response in terms of its timing and amplitude modulation in the right hemisphere, supporting the hypothesis that the processes performed by the right hemisphere following reorganization are similar in nature to those (previously) performed by the left hemisphere. We also identified one participant with a fast-growing tumor affecting large parts of critical language areas and underlying ventral and dorsal white matter tracts who showed a deviant pattern in behavior and in the MEG event-related responses. In conclusion, our results attest to the validity of using a demanding picture-naming task in presurgical patients and provide evidence for neuroplasticity, with the right hemisphere performing similar computations as the left hemisphere typically performs.

You do not currently have access to this content.