Reductions in prefrontal activation predict off-topic utterances during speech production

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The ability to speak coherently is essential for effective communication but declines with age: older people more frequently produce tangential, off-topic speech. Little is known, however, about the neural systems that support coherence in speech production. Here, fMRI was used to investigate extended speech production in healthy older adults. Computational linguistic analyses were used to quantify the coherence of utterances produced in the scanner, allowing identification of the neural correlates of coherence for the first time. Highly coherent speech production was associated with increased activity in bilateral inferior prefrontal cortex (BA45), an area implicated in selection of task-relevant knowledge from semantic memory, and in bilateral rostrolateral prefrontal cortex (BA10), implicated more generally in planning of complex goal-directed behaviours. These findings demonstrate that neural activity during spontaneous speech production can be predicted from formal analysis of speech content, and that multiple prefrontal systems contribute to coherence in speech.
Original languageEnglish
Article number515
Number of pages11
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2019

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • cognitive ageing
  • dementia
  • human behaviour
  • language


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