Neural correlates of syntactic movement: Converging evidence from two fMRI experiments

Michal Ben-Shachar*, Dafna Palti, Yosef Grodzinsky

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

212 Scopus citations


This paper studies neural processes of sentence comprehension, focusing on a specific syntactic operation - syntactic movement. We describe two fMRI experiments that manipulate this particular syntactic component. The sentences in each of the experiments are different, yet the structural contrast in both is syntactically identical, comparing movement and no-movement sentences. Two distinct Hebrew constructions, topicalization and wh-questions, were presented in an auditory comprehension task and compared to carefully matched baseline sentences. We show that both contrasts, presented in an auditory comprehension task, yield comparable activations in a consistent set of brain regions, including left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), left ventral precentral sulcus (vPCS), and bilateral posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS). Furthermore, we show that these regions are not sensitive to two other syntactic contrasts. The results, considered in the context of previous imaging and lesion studies, suggest that the processing of syntactic movement involves a consistent set of brain regions, regardless of the superficial properties of the sentences at issue, and irrespective of task.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1320-1336
Number of pages17
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2004
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The study was supported by a grant from the Israel–U.S.A. Bi-national Science Foundation (BSF 1997-0451).


  • Syntactic movement
  • Topicalization
  • fMRI


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