Echo-planar magnetic resonance imaging studies of frontal cortex activation during word generation in humans
Nine subjects were studied by high-speed magnetic resonance imaging while performing language-based tasks. Subjects were asked either to repeat or to generate verbs associated with nouns read by an experimenter while magnetic resonance images were obtained of the left inferior frontal lobe. The echo-planar imaging sequence was used with a gradient echo time of 70 ms to give an apparent transverse relaxation time weighting (T2* that is sensitive to local hemoglobin levels. Images were acquired every 3 s (repetition time) in series of 32. In plane resolution was 6 x 4.5 mm and slice thickness was 10 mm. An increase in signal accompanied performance of the tasks, with significantly more activation for verb generation than for repeating. The activation effect occurred within 3 s after task onset and could be observed in single images from individual subjects. The primary focus of activation appeared in gray matter along a sulcus anterior to the lateral sulcus that included the anterior insula, Brodmann's area 47, and extending to area 10. Little or no activation of this region was found for a passive listening, covert generation, or mouth-movement control tasks. Significant activation was also found for a homologous region in the right frontal cortex but not for control regions in calcarine cortex. These results are consistent with prior studies that have used positron emission tomography imaging with 15O-labeled water as a blood flow tracer.