The supracallosal medial frontal cortex can be divided into three functional domains: a ventral region with connections to the limbic system, an anterior dorsal region with connections to lateral prefrontal systems, and a posterior dorsal region with connections to lateral motor systems. Lesion and functional imaging studies implicate this medial frontal cortex in speech and language generation. The current functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study of word generation was designed to determine which of these three functional domains was substantially involved by mapping individual subjects' functional activity onto structural images of their left medial frontal cortex. Of 28 neurologically normal right-handed participants, 21 demonstrated a prominent paracingulate sulcus (PCS), which lies in the anterior dorsal region with connections to lateral prefrontal systems. Activity increases for word generation centered in the PCS in 18 of these 21 cases. The posterior dorsal region also demonstrated significant activity in a majority of participants (16/28 cases). Activity rarely extended into the cingulate sulcus (CS) (3/21 cases) when there was a prominent PCS. If there was no prominent PCS, however, activity did extend into the CS (6/7 cases). In no case was activity present on the crest of the cingulate gyrus, which is heavily connected to the limbic system. Thus, current findings suggest that medial frontal activity during word generation reflects cognitive and motor rather than limbic system participation. The current study demonstrates that suitably designed fMRI studies can he used to determine the functional significance of anatomic variants in human cortex.
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