Abstract

The left parietal lobe has been proposed as a major language area. However, parietal cortical function is more usually considered in terms of the control of actions, contributing both to attention and cross-modal integration of external and reafferent sensory cues. We used positron emission tomography to study normal subjects while they overtly generated narratives, both spoken and written. The purpose was to identify the parietal contribution to the modality-specific sensorimotor control of communication, separate from amodal linguistic and memory processes involved in generating a narrative. The majority of left and right parietal activity was associated with the execution of writing under visual and somatosensory control irrespective of whether the output was a narrative or repetitive reproduction of a single grapheme. In contrast, action-related parietal activity during speech production was confined to primary somatosensory cortex. The only parietal area with a pattern of activity compatible with an amodal central role in communication was the ventral part of the left angular gyrus (AG). The results of this study indicate that the cognitive processing of language within the parietal lobe is confined to the AG and that the major contribution of parietal cortex to communication is in the sensorimotor control of writing.

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