Subcortical electrical stimulation during brain surgery may allow localization of functionally crucial white matter fibers and thus tailoring of the tumor resection according to its functional limits. The arcuate fasciculus (AF) is a white matter bundle connecting frontal, temporal, and parietal cortical areas that is often disrupted by left brain lesions. It plays a critical role in several cognitive functions related to phonological processing, but current intraoperative monitoring methods do not yet allow mapping of this tract with sufficient precision. In the present study the authors aimed to test a new paradigm for the intraoperative monitoring of the AF.
In this report, the authors studied 12 patients undergoing awake brain surgery for tumor resection with a related risk of AF damage. To preserve AF integrity and the cognitive processes sustained by this tract in the intraoperative context, the authors used real word repetition (WR) and nonword repetition (NWR) tasks as complements to standard picture naming.
Compared with the errors identified by WR or picture naming, the NWR task allowed the detection of subtle errors possibly related to AF alterations. Moreover, only 3 patients demonstrated phonological paraphasias in standard picture naming, and in 2 of these patients the paraphasias co-occurred with the total loss of WR and NWR ability. Before surgery, lesion volume predicted a patient's NWR performance.
The authors suggest that monitoring NWR intraoperatively may complement the standard naming tasks and could permit better preservation of the important language production functions subserved by the AF.