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Stimulating language: insights from TMS


Stimulating language: insights from TMS Joseph T. Devlin and Kate E. Watkins – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Stimulating language: insights from TMS

Stimulating language insights from TMS
  • Joseph T. Devlin and Kate E. Watkins

History of TMS in language research
  • Neurosurgeons Wilder Penfield and George Ojemann
    evoke and disrupt language production
  • Pascual-Leone and colleagues used transcranial
    magnetic stimulation (TMS) (1991) language
  • Epilepsy patient any of various disorders marked
    by abnormal electrical discharges in the brain
    and typically manifested by sudden brief episodes
    of altered or diminished consciousness,
    involuntary movements, or convulsions

Pros and Cons
  • Pros
  • Non-invasively virtual lesion
  • Transient stimulation
  • Causal relationship
  • Temporal and spatial precision (to some extent)
  • Moreover, TMS avoids difficulties of patient
    studies, including potential differences in
  • ability, compensatory plasticity following the
    lesion, naturally occurring lesions, and damage
    to sub-adjacent fibres-of-passage.
  • Insufficient time for functional re-organization
    to occur during single TMS events - Results not
    confounded by any recovery processes
  • The induced disruption is generally more focal
    than naturally occurring lesions and does not
    affect deep white matter pathways. (cortex, grey
  • Complementary to other neuroimaging techniques
    weve ever covered

Pros and Cons (cont.)
  • Cons
  • Ethical issues
  • Long-term effect (long-term effect on normal s
    vs. long-term treatment effect)
  • Appropriate stimulation parameters (single versus
    repetitive stimulation, intensity, timing,
    location, type of coil, coil orientation, etc.),
  • Restricted access limited to only surface
  • TMS produces both sound and somatosensory
    stimulation which can also influence behaviour
  • TMS can cause discomfort or pain (muscles on the
    head or peripheral cranial nerves
  • The basic physiological mechanisms underlying TMS
    effects are not yet fully understood - Improve or
    compromise performance?
  • Number of participants combined with other
    techniques to control individual differences in
    hemisphere laterality

Technical specifications
  • Video clips
  • Websites http//
  • (TMS)
  • A rapidly changing current within a conducting
    coil is used to induce a strong, but relatively
    focal, magnetic field.
  • When the coil is placed on the scalp, the
    magnetic field induces a physiological response
    (i.e. depolarization and/or spiking) in the
    underlying neural tissue
  • This introduces transient noise into the neural
    computation being performed
  • lead to longer reaction times (RTs) or even
  • TMS-induced change in behaviour can be used to
    investigate causal relations between specific
    brain regions and individual cognitive functions

Technical specifications (cont.)
  • Lasting from tens of milliseconds up to 1 h (for
    treatment purpose only), depending on the
    specific type of stimulation
  • Motor Evoked Potential (MEP) that serves as an
    index of motor excitability (how common is it to
    related MEP with TMS?)

  • About this paper
  • Report novel findings and extend the knowledge of
    the neural and cognitive basis of language
  • Not a full review of applying TMS in language
  • Not a technical discussion of TMS

Speech Production
  • The first language study to use TMS was by
    Pascual-Leone et al. (1991)
  • Induce speech arrest in pre-surgical epilepsy
  • 10s of repetitive TMS (rTMS)
  • At rates of either 8, 16 or 25 Hz rates of rTMS
    or frequency of the magnet
  • Over 15 different scalp positions surrounding
    perisylvian (figure) cortex in each hemisphere
    defined by the international 1020 electrode
  • Counting from one
  • Speech arrest 4-6s after stimulation in left
  • TMS vs. Intracarotid Amobarbital Testing (IAT,
  • Amobarbital a barbiturate with sedative and
    hypnotic effects used to relieve insomnia and as
    an anticonvulsant
  • Intracarotid Amobarbital Procedure (IAP)
  • The purpose of the IAP (Intracarotid Amobarbital
    Procedure) is to find out where speech and memory
    reside in an individual's brain.
  • The test is designed to evaluate each side of the
    brain separately. The results of your test are
    carefully analyzed to see how each side of your
    brain responded. This information will guide the
    Neurosurgeon in planning your surgery. Our goal
    is to eliminate your seizures without affecting
    your speech or memory.
  • http//

Speech Production (cont.)
  • What Happens During The Test?
  • The IAP is done in two parts.
  • The first part is called an angiogram.
  • A thin, plastic tube is inserted into an artery
    at the top of your right leg (this is called a
    catheter), after this area has been numbed with
    novocaine. Then, the tube is moved up through
    your body. You should only feel mild pressure at
    the insertion site. A dye is injected through the
    tube and into the carotid artery. This dye makes
    it possible for the doctors to take pictures of
    the blood vessels in your brain. Both sides of
    your brain will be x-rayed by the radiologist.
  • In the second part, a medication, sodium
    amobarbital, is injected into the carotid artery
    through the tube in your leg.
  • Sodium amobarbital is a short-acting sedative. It
    is directed to one side of your brain and will
    numb that side of your brain. You will be asked
    to perform simple tasks, such as naming objects,
    reading a short sentence, or recalling objects.
    This procedure evaluates the functions on the
    side of your brain that remains active. After the
    effects of the sedation have worn off, the
    catheter will be moved to the other side and the
    procedure will be repeated. The catheter is moved
    inside your body, so it is only placed once, in
    your right leg. Again, the neuropsychologist will
    ask you to perform the same simple tasks. Some
    patients feel groggy, weak or confused
    immediately after the injection of the sedative.
    It usually takes some effort to focus on the
    task, but the material presented to you will be
    simple and you will be familiar with the
    procedure from the practice session. You should
    do your best to follow directions, but this is
    not a "pass" or "fail" test. The doctors are
    interested in analyzing and comparing the
    responses from the two separate sides of your
    brain. You should not worry about how well you

Speech Production (cont.)
  • Problems with using rTMS (instead of IAT) for
    pre-surgical planning
  • Not totally consistency between rTMS and IAT
  • Inter-stduy variations come from parameters
    chosen (e.g., intensity and rates)
  • Higher intensities led to stronger speech arrest
    effects, but surprisingly it was the lower rates
    of stimulation (48 Hz) that induces speech
  • Higher frequencies (16-32Hz) led to muscle
    contractions and the discomfort or pain
  • Stimulation at 4 Hz disrupted highly over-learned
    speech such as counting and interfered with
    reading aloud and spontaneous speech

Speech Production (cont.)
  • rTMS overestimated
  • Right hemisphere involvement in a considerable
    proportion of patients.
  • The IAT findings were a better predictor of
    postoperative language difficulties than the
  • rTMS only targets at region of interest
  • To determine language dominance in order to
    minimize the impact of the surgical resection on
    language abilities, rTMS appears to be less
    reliable than IAT.

Speech Production (cont.)
  • Only left hemisphere stimulation of the more
    anterior site led to speech arrest
  • Stimulation of either hemisphere can induce
    speech arrest by interfering with the motor
    output of speech.
  • The more anterior site may correspond to
    prefrontal cortex (i.e. Brocas area in the left
    hemisphere) where stimulation would be expected
    to interfere with the formation of an
    articulatory plan rather than the implementation
    of the motor sequence.

Speech Production (cont.)
  • MEPs in a hand muscle were measured in response
    to single pulses of TMS over the hand area of the
    contralateral motor cortex (read aloud, read
    silently, spoke spontaneously or made non-speech
    vocal sounds).
  • The MEPs size was facilitated equally for left
    and right hemisphere stimulations during
    spontaneous speech
  • This effect was lateralized to the dominant
    hemisphere during reading aloud.
  • The silent reading condition and the non-speech
    sound production did not result in changes in
  • Functional link between speech production and the
    hand motor area is left lateralized.
  • Reflect the irrepressible use of hand gestures
    when speaking
  • Indicate an evolutionary link in the development
    of speech and language
  • through hand gestures
  • fMRI evidence - hand (face) area coactivation
    during normal language production???

Speech Perception and Motor System
  • Action observationexecution matching mechanism
    in the human brain
  • mirror-neuron system in the macaque brain
  • Aziz-Zadeh et al. (2004)
  • Increased excitability of the motor system
    underlying hand actions while subjects listened
    to sound associated with actions performed by the
  • The facilitation of MEP size seen for these
    bimanual sounds (tearing paper, typing) was
    lateralized to the left hemisphere
    (characteristics of the speech matters).

Speech Perception and Motor System (cont.)
  • Watkins et al. (2003)
  • Both visual and auditory perception of speech
    separately facilitated MEP responses (Fig. 1A and
  • EMG was recorded from the lips (orbicularis oris)
    while subjects
  • either listened to continuous prose passages
    while viewing noise
  • or viewed lip movements of continuous speech
    while listening to white noise.
  • MEP size was significantly facilitated during
    both auditory and visual speech perception, but
    only for stimulation over the left hemisphere and
    not for the right (Fig. 1B).

(No Transcript)
Speech Perception and Motor System (cont.)
  • The link between production and perception
  • Fadiga et al. (2002) found that auditory
    presentation of specific phonemes facilitated
    motor excitability measured from specific muscles
    used in the production of those phonemes.
  • Phonemes requiring or not requiring tongue
    movements rr in the Italian word terra or
    the ff in the Italian word zaffo.
  • Whether this increased excitability reflects a
    corollary of the perception process or in some
    way aids perception remains to be tested.
  • Brocas area plays a central role in linking
    speech perception with speech production,
  • Consistent with theories that emphasize the
    integration of sensory and motor representations
    in understanding speech

Syntax, verbs and action
  • Left prefrontal cortex (normals and patients)
  • Sakai et al. (2002)
  • Whether, and when, Brocas area was involved in
    syntactic processing using a sentence validation
  • Participants viewed sentences and had to identify
    each as correct, grammatically incorrect or
    semantically incorrect.
  • All sentences used a simple noun phraseverb

Syntax, verbs and action (cont.)
  • Sham stimulations
  • VP appearing 200 ms after the NP. TMS to Brocas
    area was delivered 0, 150 or 350 ms (200ms?)
    after the VP onset.
  • Relative to sham stimulation, TMS selectively
    facilitated RTs for syntactic, but not semantic
  • The effect was specific to the 150 ms time window
  • Brocas area is causally involved in syntactic
    processing (vice versa for the semantic region?)

Syntax, verbs and action (cont.)
  • Hard to interpret TMS facilitation
  • First, it is clear that stimulation can lead to
    reductions in RTs due to inter-sensory
  • Second, stimulation induces small currents in
    neural tissue, which are expected to introduce
    noise and therefore interfere with, rather than
    facilitate, processing.
  • Sub-threshold stimulation could prime the
    tissue and thereby enhance processing

Syntax, verbs and action (cont.)
  • Still, this study is important
  • ERPs - early left anterior negativity (ELAN)
  • Sensitive to syntactic processes and occurs in
    roughly that same time window (150200 ms)
  • But
  • Morpho-syntactic (he lie) vs. transitivity
    (someone lies snow)
  • Mismatch with N400P600 complex in ERP (TMS was

Syntax, verbs and action (cont.)
  • TMS priming the region before it was required
    for the syntactic judgments
  • Synchronized neuronal activity necessary to
    produce an ERP or MEG signal is delayed relative
    to the physiological source
  • Clearly, systematic comparisons

Syntax, verbs and action (cont.)
  • Grammatical class of words
  • Cappa et al. (2002) - close relation between
    verbs and actions
  • Italian-speaking participants were shown pictures
    of common objects and asked to either name the
    object e.g. telefono (a telephone) or the
    associated action telefonare (to telephone).
  • rTMS of left DLPFC decreased naming latencies for
    verbs relative to right DLPFC and sham
  • In contrast, the latencies for object naming were

A closer connection btw verbs and action
  • Buccino et al. (2005)
  • MEPs were measured from the hand and foot muscles
  • While subjects listened to sentences related to
    hand actions (e.g. he sewed the skirt),
    foot-actions (e.g. he jumped the rope) or more
    abstract actions (e.g. he forgot the date).
  • MEPs recorded from hand muscles were
    significantly modulated by sentences referring to
    hand actions but not foot or abstract actions.
  • Similarly, sentences with foot, but not hand or
    abstract actions modulated MEP responses in the
    foot muscle.
  • Double dissociation

A closer connection btw verbs and action (cont.)
  • A similar study by Pulvermuller et al. (2005)
  • Single-pulse TMS over the arm or leg motor cortex
    in the left hemisphere led to faster RTs on
    lexical decisions for actions related to arms
    (e.g. folding) and legs (e.g. stepping),

Functional Anatomy of Brocas area
  • Traditionally associated with both speech
    production and syntactic processing,
  • Brocas area is part of a larger region
  • meaning, sounds and syntax as well as many
    non-linguistic functions
  • Clarify the specific regional contributions to
    semantic and phonological processing

Functional Anatomy of Brocas area (cont.)
  • Devlin et al. (2003)
  • Whether stimulation of rostral LIFG interfered
    with a simple semantic decision
  • deciding whether a visually presented word
    referred to man-made (e.g. kennel) or natural
    object (e.g. dog).
  • Relative to no stimulation, TMS significantly
    increased RTs in the semantic task (abstract),
    but not when participants focused on visual
    properties of the presented words.

Functional Anatomy of Brocas area (cont.)
  • Nixon et al. (2004)
  • Whether stimulation of caudal LIFG interfered
    with a phonological working memory task.
  • Participants saw a word on a computer screen
    (e.g. knees) and then held it in memory during
    a 12 s
  • Deciding whether it sounded the same as a
    subsequently presented non-word (e.g. neaze).
  • rTMS during the delay period selectively
    increased the error rate during the phonological
    task, but not of a comparable visual working
    memory task.

Functional Anatomy of Brocas area (cont.)
  • Rostral LIFG is necessary for semantic processing
    while caudal LIFG is necessary for phonological
  • Alternative explanations
  • a) peak activation shift between two regions
    within LIFG
  • b) co-activation due to incidental processing
  • Gough et al. (2005)
  • Double dissociation between semantic and
    phonological processing in LIFG.
  • Whether they meant the same (e.g. idea-notion),
    sounded the same (e.g.noseknows), or looked the
    same (e.g. fwtsp-fwtsp)

(No Transcript)
Functional Anatomy of Brocas area (cont.)
  • Advantage of the TMS compared to functional
    imaging to exclude the alternatives mentioned
  • Double dissociation for semantic and phonological
    processing within LIFG in sites separated by lt3
  • The spatial precision of TMS allows for
    independently disrupting the regions and
    clarifying their distinct contributions to word

TMS and Aphasia
  • Two sorts of questions are often asked
  • What are the mechanisms that support recovery
    following damage?
  • Can these be enhanced to improve outcomes?
  • Right hemisphere compensation hypothesis
    following damage
  • Coltheart (1980) suggested that following
    extensive left hemisphere lesions, the right
    hemisphere is capable of supporting partial
    reading ability primarily limited to high
    frequency, concrete nouns (e.g. apple but not

TMS and Aphasia (cont.)
  • Coslett and Monsul (1994)
  • A single TMS pulse to the right temporo-parietal
  • At 145 ms after the onset of a visual word.
  • In the patient but not in controls, this
    significantly reduced the number of correctly
    read words from 17/24 without TMS to 5/24 with

TMS and Aphasia (cont.)
  • RIFG in patients recovering from left hemisphere
  • Once again, a majority of patients (11/14) showed
    latency increases with LIFG stimulation
  • Five patients with the most rightward activation
    asymmetry also showed a latency increase with
    RIFG stimulation.
  • LIFG is important for word generation task even
    after LH damage

TMS and Aphasia (cont.)
  • Knecht et al. (2002) first identified a set of
    neurologically normal participants who varied in
    their degree of language lateralization
  • Functional transcranial Doppler sonography (good
    at temporal resolution and measuring the speed of
    blood flow) was used to measure hemispheric
    perfusion increases during a word generation task
    across a large sample of the population

TMS and Aphasia (cont.)
  • Hemispheric dominance from strongly left to
    strongly right lateralized
  • Each performed a picture-word verification task
    before and after 10 min of 1 Hz stimulation over
    either left or right Wernickes area.
  • Participants with left, but not right, language
    dominance were significantly slowed by left
    hemisphere stimulation while the opposite pattern
    was observed for right hemisphere stimulation.
  • In addition, the amount of interference
    correlated with the degree of language
  • Pre-morbid differences, render the right
    hemisphere more or less receptive for language
    before any re-organization takes place
  • Play an important role in determining the
    likelihood of right hemisphere compensation
    following leftsided damage.
  • Normal participants using TMS , comparable to
    brain damage patients fair enough?

TMS and Aphasia (cont.)
  • TMS is used to actually enhance recovery Hoffman
    et al. (1999)
  • Auditory hallucinations are due to
    over-activation in auditory cortex
  • Used a 4 day schedule of 1 Hz stimulation over
    left auditory association cortex to suppress
    activity in the region.
  • All three patients reported reduced auditory
    hallucinations and in two of the patients, the
    effect lasted for 2 weeks.
  • Chronic non-fluent aphasics
  • Strong right hemisphere activation is often
    observed, even in the absence of behavioural
    improvements (Naeser et al., 2004).
  • In order to reduce this potentially maladaptive
    right hemisphere activation, 10 min of 1 Hz rTMS
    was delivered to each of four different right
    hemisphere sites including rostral RIFG, caudal
    RIFG, posterior superior temporal gyrus, and the
    mouth area of primary motor cortex in six
    non-fluent patients.
  • Only following rostral RIFG stimulation were the
    patients able to correctly name more pictures
    than before TMS (Martin et al., 2004).

TMS and Aphasia (cont.)
  • Consequently, this region was targeted for 20 min
    each day within 10 days
  • 1 Hz rTMS in four of the patients to determine
    whether a lasting facilitation could be achieved
  • Immediately following the final rTMS session,
    picture naming performance was significantly
    enhanced in each patient
  • These effects were still present 2 months later
    without any additional TMS sessions or
    intervening speech therapy (Fig. 3A, Naeser et
    al., 2005b).
  • One patient was seen again 8 months after TMS
    treatment and her performance remained stable at
    a level significantly better than before
    treatment (Fig. 3B,
  • Naeser et al., 2005a).

(No Transcript)
TMS and Aphasia (cont.)
  • TMS modulated activity throughout the language
    system via cortico-cortico spreading
  • This activity was sufficient to promote plastic
    changes (i.e. re-organization) that improved

Future Directions
  • Cortical connectivity - neural circuitry
    underlying human language processing
  • TMS and other imaging techniques such as PET,
    fMRI and EEG/MEG offers the potential to identify
    both functional and anatomical connectivity
  • Investigate the neural mechanisms underlying TMS
    effects and to probe the time course of TMS
  • Multifocal stimulation can be used to explore
    both functional connectivity and the mechanisms
    of recovery

  • Virtual lesion
  • TMS offers the spatio-temporal accuracy
  • Different regions of LIFG in semantic and
    phonological processing
  • Critical relationship between pre-morbid language
    organization and susceptibility to unilateral
    lesions and recovery progress
  • LH activation (LIFG) in aphasic patients is more
    critical for performance than right hemisphere

Summary (cont.)
  • A measure of functional connectivity
  • A close link between action words and motor
  • A potential evolutionary link between hand
    gestures and language
  • Speech perception potentiates the specific parts
    of the motor system engaged to produce equivalent
  • Potential for enhancing
  • Recovery processes and aiding rehabilitation

More thoughts
  • Has to do with motor-related tasks?
  • Embodied cognition
  • Active vs. inactive verbs
  • Priming verb aspects - Skated vs. skating -gt