The 1st Annual Edith Kaplan Memorial Lecture: Language and the Brain: From Past Studies to Future Aspirations

Nina Dronkers VA Northern California Health Care System; University of California, Davis

Nina Dronkers
VA Northern California Health Care System;
University of California, Davis

Nina Dronkers, PhD Abstract & Learning Objectives: Past approaches to the study of language and the brain have focused largely on the contributions of Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas. By using advanced neuroimaging techniques with individuals who have aphasia, we have now learned that language is an extraordinarily complex system that requires an extensive and interactive network of brain regions to sustain it. We have also learned that an intricate system of fiber pathways connect these regions together and has been underestimated in terms of its importance in supporting language. This information has advanced our understanding of how the brain processes language in important ways, while inviting future investigations to embrace novel approaches to the study of brain-behavior relationships. This lecture is intended to help the listener: 1) compare past versus present methods of assessing brain-language relationships, and 2) incorporate localizationist models of language and cognition with a network perspective to better understand the neural mechanisms of language and cognition. Speaker Biography: Nina F. Dronkers is a VA Research Career Scientist and Director of the Center for Aphasia and Related Disorders with the Department of Veterans Affairs Northern California Health Care System. She is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of California, Davis in the Department of Neurology. She received her interdisciplinary Ph.D. degree in Neuropsychology from the University of California, Berkeley in 1985, as well as earlier degrees in Linguistics and Educational Psychology from UC Berkeley. Dr. Dronkers’ research and clinical interests have always focused on understanding the speech, language, and cognitive disorders that occur after injury to the brain as determined by structural neuroimaging. She and her colleagues have worked extensively with individuals who have aphasia to understand the relationship between areas of the brain affected by injury and the speech and language disorders that ensue. Using numerous methodologies, including their voxel-based lesion symptom mapping (VLSM) technique, Dr. Dronkers and her colleagues have isolated numerous brain regions that play critical roles in the processing of speech and language, as well as how these relate to other cognitive skills. Her latest work involves analyzing the structural and functional connections that contribute to language and cognitive processing through advanced work with diffusion and resting state functional neuroimaging. Celebrating 50 Years-Binding the Past and Present