Category-specific cortical mapping: color-naming areas

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  • 1 Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, Unité 455; Fédération de Neurochirurgie; Service d’Epidémiologie; and Fédération de Neurologie, Centres Hospitalo-Universitaires, Toulouse, France
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Object

It has been hypothesized that a certain degree of specialization exists within language areas, depending on some specific lexical repertories or categories. To spare hypothetical category-specific cortical areas and to gain a better understanding of their organization, the authors studied patients who had undergone electrical stimulation mapping for brain tumors and they compared an object-naming task with a category-specific task (color naming).

Methods

Thirty-six patients with no significant preoperative language deficit were prospectively studied during a 2-year period. Along with a reading task, both object- and color-naming tasks were used in brain mapping. During color naming, patients were asked to identify 11 visually presented basic colors. The modality specificity of the colornaming sites found was subsequently tested by asking patients to retrieve the color attributes of objects.

High individual variability was observed in language organization among patients and in the tasks performed. Significant interferences in color naming were found in traditional language regions—that is, Broca (p < 0.003) and Wernicke centers (p = 0.05)—although some color-naming areas were occasionally situated outside of these regions. Color-naming interferences were exclusively localized in small cortical areas (< 1 cm2). Anatomical segregation of the different naming categories was apparent in 10 patients; in all, 13 color-specific naming areas (that is, sites evoking no object-naming interference) were detected in the dominant-hemisphere F3 and the supramarginal, angular, and posterior parts of the temporal gyri. Nevertheless, no specific brain region was found to be consistently involved in color naming (p > 0.05). At five sites, although visually presented color-naming tasks were impaired by stimulation, auditory color naming (for example, “What color is grass?”) was performed with no difficulty, showing that modality-specific areas can be found during naming.

Conclusions

Within language areas, a relative specialization of cortical language areas for color naming can be found during electrical stimulation mapping.

Abbreviations used in this paper:

F1 = superior frontal gyrus; F2 = middle frontal gyrus; F3 = inferior frontal gyrus; T1 = superior temporal gyrus; T2 = middle temporal gyrus; T3 = inferior temporal gyrus.

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Contributor Notes

Address reprint requests to: Franck-Emmanuel Roux, M.D., Ph.D., Service de Neurochirurgie et Institut National de la Santé 455, Hôpital Purpan, F-31059 Toulouse, France. email: rouxfran@compuserve.com.
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