Language mapping is done during surgery while the patient is awake and interactive. This is possible because the brain itself does not have pain receptors.
The patient is shown sequential pictures of common objects, while a region of the brain is electrically stimulated in one centimeter increments.
When the patient cannot successfully name objects during stimulation of a particular part of the brain, that brain area is concluded to be important for visual object naming.
The widely held belief is that visual object naming is primarily a function of the lateral [outermost] temporal lobe.
A wide range of studies on language assessment during awake brain surgery is nowadays available. Yet, a consensus on a standardized protocol for intraoperative language mapping is still lacking. More specifically, very limited information is offered about intraoperative assessment of a crucial component of language such as syntax.
A review of the Epistemogy and Theoretical Syntax Research Center (NETS), Scuola Universitaria Superiore IUSS Pavia, Piazza della Vittoria, 15, 27100, Pavia, Italy and the Unit of Oncological Neurosurgery, Humanitas Research Hospital, 20089 Rozzano, Milan, Italy, aims at critically analyzing the intraoperative studies investigating the cerebral basis of syntactic processing. A comprehensive query was performed on the literature, returning a total of 18 studies. These papers were analyzed according to two complementary criteria, based on the distinction between morphosyntax and syntax. The first criterion focused on the tasks and stimuli employed intraoperatively. Studies were divided into three different groups: group 1 included those studies that overtly aimed at investigating morphosyntactic processes; group 2 included studies that did not explicitly focus on syntax, yet employed stimuli requiring morphosyntactic processing; and group 3 included studies reporting some generic form of syntactic deficit, although not further investigated. The second criterion focused on the syntactic structures of the sentences assessed intraoperatively, analyzing the canonicity of sentence structure (i.e., canonical versus non-canonical word order). The global picture emerging from our analysis indicates that what was investigated in the intraoperative literature is morphosyntactic processing, rather than pure syntax. The study of the neurobiology of syntax during awake surgery seems thus to be still at an early stage, in need of systematic, linguistically grounded investigations 1).
A study describes development of a novel language mapping approach using high-γ modulation in electrocorticography (ECoG) during spontaneous conversation, and its comparison with electrical cortical stimulation (ECS) in childhood-onset drug-resistant epilepsy.
This study supports the feasibility of language mapping with ECoG HGS during spontaneous conversation, and its accuracy compared to traditional ECS. Given long-standing concerns about ecological validity of ECS mapping of cued language tasks, and difficulties encountered with its use in children, ECoG mapping of spontaneous language may provide a valid alternative for clinical use 2).
Repetitive navigated transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is now increasingly used for preoperative language mapping in patients with lesions in language-related areas of the brain. Yet its correlation with intraoperative direct cortical stimulation (DCS) has to be improved.
Although language mapping by repetitive navigated transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) gains importance in neuropsychological research and clinical utility, neuroscientists still use different mapping protocols including different stimulation frequencies.
The stimulation frequency has to be adapted to the aim of the rTMS language investigation 3).