Nina F. Dronkers vs Julius Fridriksson
What is the role of the insula in speech and language?

Friday, October 26, 5:20 – 6:50 pm, Kursaal Auditorium

Nina F. Dronkers is the Director of the Center for Aphasia and Related Disorders as well as an Adjunct Professor of Neurology and Language at the University of California, Davis. Dronkers is an expert in the aphasia and, more generally, the cerebral localization of language.

Julius (Julli) Fridriksson is a USC Health Sciences Distinguished Professor and director of the Aphasia Lab at the University of South Carolina. He completed PhD study in 2001 at the University of Arizona with Audrey Holland but also received extensive mentoring by Pelagie Beeson and Elena Plante. His work has mostly focused on the neurophysiology of language recovery in aphasia using methods such as neuroimaging and transcranial brain stimulation. In addition to investigating the mechanism supporting aphasia recovery, Fridriksson has published several papers in the areas of speech production and perception. Fridriksson is a member of the Language and Communication Disorders (LCOM) study section at the NIH. Away from work, he enjoys reading, mountain biking, and playing the bass guitar in the band Dead Fish Walking.

The role of the insula in processing speech and language has received relatively limited attention compared to that of other peri-sylvian regions in the left hemisphere. The strategic location of the insula within the peri-sylvian region was noted by Carl Wernicke who suggested that it represented a (functional?) continuum of the anterior and posterior speech areas. More recent studies suggest that the insula is crucial for motor control of speech; much of the supporting evidence comes from associating insula damage with impaired speech production and functional imaging studies showing that overt speech is related to recruitment of the anterior insula. Contrary to this evidence, others have found the insula to play a more limited role in speech production placing grater emphasis on the left inferior frontal gyrus. Several sources of discrepant findings can be identified and our goal is to identify and discuss where we agree and disagree. As importantly, we hope to identify areas where our disagreements can be adjudicated by testable hypotheses regarding the potential role of the insula in speech production.