Functional linguistic specificity of the left frontal aslant tract for spontaneous speech fluency: Evidence from intraoperative language mapping
The left frontal aslant tract (FAT) has been proposed to be relevant for language, and specifically for spontaneous speech fluency. However, there is missing causal evidence that stimulation of the FAT affects spontaneous speech, and not language production in general. We present a series of 12 neurosurgical cases with awake language mapping of the cortex near the left FAT. Tasks for language mapping included the commonly used action picture naming, and sentence completion, tapping more specifically into spontaneous speech. A task dissociation was found in 10 participants: while being stimulated on specific sites, they were able to name a picture but could not complete a sentence. Overlaying of these sites on preoperative white-matter tract reconstructions revealed that in each individual case they were located on cortical terminations of the FAT. This corroborates the language functional specificity of the left FAT as a tract underlying fluent spontaneous speech.