Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

A coordinate-based ALE functional MRI meta-analysis of brain activation during verbal fluency tasks in healthy control subjects

Stefanie Wagner*, Alexandra Sebastian, Klaus Lieb, Oliver Tüscher and André Tadić

Author Affiliations

Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Medical Centre Mainz, Untere Zahlbacher Str. 8, Mainz, Germany

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BMC Neuroscience 2014, 15:19  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-15-19

Published: 24 January 2014



The processing of verbal fluency tasks relies on the coordinated activity of a number of brain areas, particularly in the frontal and temporal lobes of the left hemisphere. Recent studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study the neural networks subserving verbal fluency functions have yielded divergent results especially with respect to a parcellation of the inferior frontal gyrus for phonemic and semantic verbal fluency. We conducted a coordinate-based activation likelihood estimation (ALE) meta-analysis on brain activation during the processing of phonemic and semantic verbal fluency tasks involving 28 individual studies with 490 healthy volunteers.


For phonemic as well as for semantic verbal fluency, the most prominent clusters of brain activation were found in the left inferior/middle frontal gyrus (LIFG/MIFG) and the anterior cingulate gyrus. BA 44 was only involved in the processing of phonemic verbal fluency tasks, BA 45 and 47 in the processing of phonemic and semantic fluency tasks.


Our comparison of brain activation during the execution of either phonemic or semantic verbal fluency tasks revealed evidence for spatially different activation in BA 44, but not other regions of the LIFG/LMFG (BA 9, 45, 47) during phonemic and semantic verbal fluency processing.

fMRI; Coordinate-based activation likelihood estimation (ALE); Meta-analysis; Verbal fluency; Healthy controls