Re-appraising contemporary theories of subcortical participation in language: Proposing an interhemispheric regulatory function for the subthalamic nucleus (STN) in the mediation of high-level linguistic processes

Brooke M. Whelan*, Bruce E. Murdoch, Deborah Theodoros, Peter A. Silburn, Bruce Hall

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Apropos the basal ganglia, the dominant striatum and globus pallidus internus (GPi) have been hypothesized to represent integral components of subcortical language circuitry. Working subcortical language theories, however, have failed thus far to consider a role for the STN in the mediation of linguistic processes, a structure recently defined as the driving force of basal ganglia output. The aim of this research was to investigate the impact of surgically induced functional inhibition of the STN upon linguistic abilities, within the context of established models of basal ganglia participation in language. Two males with surgically induced 'lesions' of the dominant and non-dominant dorsolateral STN, aimed at relieving Parkinsonian motor symptoms, served as experimental subjects. General and high-level language profiles were compiled for each subject up to 1 month prior to and 3 months following neurosurgery, within the drug-on state (i.e., when optimally medicated). Comparable post-operative alterations in linguistic performance were observed subsequent to surgically induced functional inhibition of the left and right STN. More specifically, higher proportions of reliable decline as opposed to improvement in post-operative performance were demonstrated by both subjects on complex language tasks, hypothesised to entail the interplay of cognitive-linguistic processes. The outcomes of the current research challenge unilateralised models of functional basal ganglia organisation with the proposal of a potential interhemispheric regulatory function for the STN in the mediation of high-level linguistic processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-352
Number of pages8
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2004
Externally publishedYes


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