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.
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