Role of the striatum in language: Syntactic and conceptual sequencing

Shiao Hui Chan*, Lee Ryan, Thomas G. Bever

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


The basal ganglia (BG) have long been associated with cognitive control, and it is widely accepted that they also subserve an indirect, control role in language. Nevertheless, it cannot be completely ruled out that the BG may be involved in language in some domain-specific manner. The present study aimed to investigate one type of cognitive control-sequencing, a function that has long been connected with the BG-and to test whether the BG could be specifically implicated in language. Participants were required to rearrange materials sequentially based on linguistic (syntactic or conceptual) or non-linguistic (order switching) rules, or to repeat a previously ordered sequence as a control task. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data revealed a strongly active left-lateralized corticostriatal network, encompassing the anterior striatum, dorsolaterial and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex and presupplementary motor area, while the participants were sequencing materials using linguistic vs. non-linguistic rules. This functional network has an anatomical basis and is strikingly similar to the well-known associative loop implicated in sensorimotor sequence learning. We concluded that the anterior striatum has extended its original sequencing role and worked in concert with frontal cortical regions to subserve the function of linguistic sequencing in a domain-specific manner.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-294
Number of pages12
JournalBrain and Language
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Jun


  • Basal ganglia
  • Corticostriatal network
  • FMRI
  • Sequencing
  • Striatum
  • Subcortical language function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Speech and Hearing


Dive into the research topics of 'Role of the striatum in language: Syntactic and conceptual sequencing'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this