Anatomy of aphasia revisited

Julius Fridriksson, Dirk Bart Den Ouden, Argye E. Hillis, Gregory Hickok, Chris Rorden, Alexandra Basilakos, Grigori Yourganov, Leonardo Bonilha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


In most cases, aphasia is caused by strokes involving the left hemisphere, with more extensive damage typically being associated with more severe aphasia. The classical model of aphasia commonly adhered to in the Western world is the Wernicke-Lichtheim model. The model has been in existence for over a century, and classification of aphasic symptomatology continues to rely on it. However, far more detailed models of speech and language localization in the brain have been formulated. In this regard, the dual stream model of cortical brain organization proposed by Hickok and Poeppel is particularly influential. Their model describes two processing routes, a dorsal stream and a ventral stream, that roughly support speech production and speech comprehension, respectively, in normal subjects. Despite the strong influence of the dual stream model in current neuropsychological research, there has been relatively limited focus on explaining aphasic symptoms in the context of this model. Given that the dual stream model represents a more nuanced picture of cortical speech and language organization, cortical damage that causes aphasic impairment should map clearly onto the dual processing streams. Here, we present a follow-up study to our previous work that used lesion data to reveal the anatomical boundaries of the dorsal and ventral streams supporting speech and language processing. Specifically, by emphasizing clinical measures, we examine the effect of cortical damage and disconnection involving the dorsal and ventral streams on aphasic impairment. The results reveal that measures of motor speech impairment mostly involve damage to the dorsal stream, whereas measures of impaired speech comprehension are more strongly associated with ventral stream involvement. Equally important, many clinical tests that target behaviours such as naming, speech repetition, or grammatical processing rely on interactions between the two streams. This latter finding explains why patients with seemingly disparate lesion locations often experience similar impairments on given subtests. Namely, these individuals' cortical damage, although dissimilar, affects a broad cortical network that plays a role in carrying out a given speech or language task. The current data suggest this is a more accurate characterization than ascribing specific lesion locations as responsible for specific language deficits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)848-862
Number of pages15
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018


  • Aphasia
  • Clinical practice
  • Imaging
  • Neuroanatomy
  • Rehabilitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


Dive into the research topics of 'Anatomy of aphasia revisited'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this