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Behavioural Neurology
Volume 2014, Article ID 260381, 16 pages
Review Article

Brain and Language: Evidence for Neural Multifunctionality

Boston University Medical School Department of Neurology, Harold Goodglass Aphasia Research Center & Language in the Aging Brain, Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System, 150 South Huntington Avenue (12A), Boston, MA 02130, USA

Received 11 January 2013; Revised 19 March 2014; Accepted 20 March 2014; Published 9 June 2014

Academic Editor: Oliver Wirths

Copyright © 2014 Dalia Cahana-Amitay and Martin L. Albert. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This review paper presents converging evidence from studies of brain damage and longitudinal studies of language in aging which supports the following thesis: the neural basis of language can best be understood by the concept of neural multifunctionality. In this paper the term “neural multifunctionality” refers to incorporation of nonlinguistic functions into language models of the intact brain, reflecting a multifunctional perspective whereby a constant and dynamic interaction exists among neural networks subserving cognitive, affective, and praxic functions with neural networks specialized for lexical retrieval, sentence comprehension, and discourse processing, giving rise to language as we know it. By way of example, we consider effects of executive system functions on aspects of semantic processing among persons with and without aphasia, as well as the interaction of executive and language functions among older adults. We conclude by indicating how this multifunctional view of brain-language relations extends to the realm of language recovery from aphasia, where evidence of the influence of nonlinguistic factors on the reshaping of neural circuitry for aphasia rehabilitation is clearly emerging.