Language disorders following lesions to the thalamus and basal ganglia

F. Fabbro, L. Vorano, S. Fabbro, A. Tavano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present a review of the literature on subcortical aphasia and a follow up study of 5 cases of subcortical aphasia in bilingual patients. Two cases involve damage to thalamic nuclei, while the remaining 3 mainly involve damage to the caudate nucleus and the putamen. Results suggest that the thalamus and basal ganglia of the left hemisfere may be involved in some language functions. The types of deficits showed by thalamic patients impicate the thalamus in voice and speech production, sentence construction and lexical access (Cases 1 and 2). Patterns of language recovery in these bilingual patients vary from differential recovery (Case 1) to parallel recovery (Case 2). Language disorders following lesions to the basal ganglia (especially the head of the caudate nucleus and the putamen) may produce severe deficits in comprehension, due to impairment of morphological and syntactic levels (Case 3, which involved also a lesion to the left internal capsule). However, milder linguistic deficits are present with a main lesion to the putamen (Case 4) or an isolated lesion to the head of the caudate nucleus (Case 5). The pattern of language recovery was parallel in Cases 3 and 5, but paradoxical in Case 4, where the patient recovered to a greater extent a language (L2) she did not use for communication. The linguistic deficits observed in these patients are in line with the hypothesis that some specific subcortical structures (thalamus and basal ganglia) subserve some language functions. Therefore, these subcortical structures are likely to be involved in the regulation of the phonemic, syntactic and lexical chunks processed in the cerebral cortex.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-213
Number of pages11
JournalEuropa Medicophysica
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2002


  • Aphasia, bilingual
  • Aphasia, subcortical
  • Basal ganglia
  • Thalamus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation


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