Functional Contributions of the Arcuate Fasciculus to Language Processing

Maria V. Ivanova, Allison Zhong, And Turken, Juliana V. Baldo, Nina F. Dronkers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Current evidence strongly suggests that the arcuate fasciculus (AF) is critical for language, from spontaneous speech and word retrieval to repetition and comprehension abilities. However, to further pinpoint its unique and differential role in language, its anatomy needs to be explored in greater detail and its contribution to language processing beyond that of known cortical language areas must be established. We address this in a comprehensive evaluation of the specific functional role of the AF in a well-characterized cohort of individuals with chronic aphasia (n = 33) following left hemisphere stroke. To evaluate macro- and microstructural integrity of the AF, tractography based on the constrained spherical deconvolution model was performed. The AF in the left and right hemispheres were then manually reconstructed using a modified 3-segment model (Catani et al., 2005), and a modified 2-segment model (Glasser and Rilling, 2008). The normalized volume and a measure of microstructural integrity of the long and the posterior segments of the AF were significantly correlated with language indices while controlling for gender and lesion volume. Specific contributions of AF segments to language while accounting for the role of specific cortical language areas – inferior frontal, inferior parietal, and posterior temporal – were tested using multiple regression analyses. Involvement of the following tract segments in the left hemisphere in language processing beyond the contribution of cortical areas was demonstrated: the long segment of the AF contributed to naming abilities; anterior segment – to fluency and naming; the posterior segment – to comprehension. The results highlight the important contributions of the AF fiber pathways to language impairments beyond that of known cortical language areas. At the same time, no clear role of the right hemisphere AF tracts in language processing could be ascertained. In sum, our findings lend support to the broader role of the left AF in language processing, with particular emphasis on comprehension and naming, and point to the posterior segment of this tract as being most crucial for supporting residual language abilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number672665
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
StatePublished - Jun 25 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • aphasia
  • arcuate fasciculus
  • diffusion MRI
  • language
  • stroke
  • tractography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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