Neural responses to the production and comprehension of syntax in identical utterances

Indefrey, P., Hellwig, F. M., Herzog, H., Seitz, R. J., & Hagoort, P. (2004). Neural responses to the production and comprehension of syntax in identical utterances. Brain and Language, 89(2), 312-319. doi:10.1016/S0093-934X(03)00352-3.
Following up on an earlier positron emission tomography (PET) experiment (Indefrey et al., 2001), we used a scene description paradigm to investigate whether a posterior inferior frontal region subserving syntactic encoding for speaking is also involved in syntactic parsing during listening. In the language production part of the experiment, subjects described visually presented scenes
using either sentences, sequences of noun phrases, or sequences of syntactically unrelated words. In the language comprehension part of the experiment, subjects were auditorily presented with the same kinds of utterances and judged whether they matched the visual scenes. We were able to replicate the previous finding of a region in caudal Broca s area that is sensitive to the complexity of
syntactic encoding in language production. In language comprehension, no hemodynamic activation differences due to syntactic complexity were found. Given that correct performance in the judgment task did not require syntactic processing of the auditory stimuli, the results suggest that the degree to which listeners recruit syntactic processing resources in language comprehension may be a function of the syntactic demands of the task or the stimulus material.
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