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A quantitative approach for measuring laterality in clinical fMRI for preoperative language mapping



fMRI is increasingly used for presurgical language mapping, but lack of standard methodology has made it difficult to combine/compare data across institutions or determine the relative efficacy of different approaches. Here, we describe a quantitative analytic framework for determining language laterality in clinical fMRI that addresses these concerns.


We retrospectively analyzed fMRI data from 59 patients who underwent presurgical language mapping at our institution with identical imaging and behavioral protocols. First, we compared the efficacy of different regional masks in capturing language activations. Then, we systematically explored how laterality indices (LIs) computed from these masks vary as a function of task and activation threshold. Finally, we determined the percentile threshold that maximized the correlation between the results of our LI approach and the laterality assessments from the original clinical radiology reports.


First, we found that a regional mask derived from a meta-analysis of the fMRI literature better captured language task activations than masks based on anatomically defined language areas. Then, we showed that an LI approach based on this functional mask and percentile thresholding of subject activation can quantify the relative ability of different language tasks to lateralize language function at the population level. Finally, we determined that the 92nd percentile of subject-level activation provides the optimal LI threshold with which to reproduce the original clinical reports.


A quantitative framework for determining language laterality that uses a functionally-derived language mask and percentile thresholding of subject activation can combine/compare results across tasks and patients and reproduce clinical assessments of language laterality.

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