Language Mechanisms in the Brain, Development

  • Colwyn Trevarthen
Part of the Readings from the Encyclopedia of Neuroscience book series (REN)


In the past 40 years, parts of the brain outside the classical cortical language zones, including the supplementary motor, medial limbic, and medial frontal cortices, caudate nucleus, and thalamus, have been implicated by neuropsychological investigations in the motivation and motor programming and cognitive processes for language. Noninvasive imaging by regional blood flow (rCBF) or local glucose metabolism rate (rCMR) confirm that neocortical language processing is regulated by widespread concurrent or antecedent processes outside the cortex, some of which have intrinsic asymmetry. Developments in Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas in childhood are, therefore, likely to be regulated by processes originating in mesolimbic structures, basal ganglia, and thalamus that begin their development earlier than the cognitive neocortex. Aspects of the emotional (interpersonal) and cognitive context for speech or text may be represented more in the right hemisphere of most people, and such processes are likely to be important in children.


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Further reading

  1. Kimura D, ed. (1983): Neurobiology of communication. Human Neurobiology, 2(3): 103–196.Google Scholar
  2. Kirk U, ed. (1983): Neuropsychology of Language, Reading and Spelling. New York: Academic PressGoogle Scholar
  3. Lecours AR (1982): Correlates of developmental behavior in brain maturation. In: Regressions in Mental Development: Basic Phenomena and Theories, Bever T, ed. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, pp 267–298.Google Scholar
  4. Ludlow CL, Cooper JA, eds. (1983): Genetic Aspects of Speech and Language Disorders. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  5. MacNeilage PF, Studdert-Kennedy MG, Lindblom B (1984): Functional precursors to language and its lateralization. Am J Physiol, 246 (Regulatory Integrative Comparative Physiology) (15):R912–R914.Google Scholar
  6. Trevarthen C (1983): Cerebral mechanisms for language: Prenatal and postnatal development. In: Neuropsychology of Language, Reading and Spelling, Kirk U, ed. New York: Academic Press, 45–80.Google Scholar
  7. Trevarthen C (1984): Hemispheric specialization. In: Handbook of Physiology, Geiger SR, et al, eds. Section I, The Nervous System; Volume 2, Sensory Processes, Darian-Smith I, ed. Washington: American Physiological Society, pp 1129–1190.Google Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1989

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  • Colwyn Trevarthen

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