Comparison of the neural basis for imagined writing and drawing

Greg S. Harrington, Dana Farias, Christine H. Davis, Michael H. Buonocore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

46 Scopus citations


Drawing and writing are complex processes that require the synchronization of cognition, language, and perceptual-motor skills. Drawing and writing have both been utilized in the treatment of aphasia to improve communication. Recent research suggests that the act of drawing an object facilitated naming, whereas writing the word diminished accurate naming in individuals with aphasia. However, the relationship between object drawing and subsequent phonological output is unclear. Although the right hemisphere is characteristically mute, there is evidence from split-brain research that the right hemisphere can integrate pictures and words, likely via a semantic network. We hypothesized that drawing activates right hemispheric and left perilesional regions that are spared in aphasic individuals and may contribute to semantic activation that supports naming. Eleven right-handed subjects participated in a functional MRI (fMRI) experiment involving imagined drawing and writing and 6 of the 11 subjects participated in a second fMRI experiment involving actual writing and drawing. Drawing and writing produced very similar group activation maps including activation bilaterally in the premotor, inferior frontal, posterior inferior temporal, and parietal areas. The comparison of drawing vs. writing revealed significant differences between the conditions in areas of the brain known for language processing. The direct comparison between drawing and writing revealed greater right hemisphere activation for drawing in language areas such as Brodmann area (BA) 46 and BA 37.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)450-459
Number of pages10
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2007


  • Aphasia
  • Brain mapping
  • Drawing
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Motor imagery
  • Semantics
  • Visuospatial imagery
  • Writing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology

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    Harrington, G. S., Farias, D., Davis, C. H., & Buonocore, M. H. (2007). Comparison of the neural basis for imagined writing and drawing. Human Brain Mapping, 28(5), 450-459.