Bidirectional connectivity between hemispheres occurs at multiple levels in language processing but depends on sex
Our aim was to determine the direction of interhemispheric communication in a phonological task in regions involved in different levels of processing. Effective connectivity analysis was conducted on functional magnetic resonance imaging data from 39 children (ages 9-15 years) performing rhyming judgment on spoken words. The results show interaction between hemispheres at multiple levels. First, there is unidirectional transfer of information from right to left at the sensory level of primary auditory cortex. Second, bidirectional connections between superior temporal gyri (STGs) suggest a reciprocal cooperation between hemispheres at the level of phonological and prosodic processing. Third, a direct connection from right STG to left inferior frontal gyrus suggest that information processed in the right STG is integrated into the final stages of phonological segmentation required for the rhyming decision. Intrahemispheric connectivity from primary auditory cortex to STG was stronger in the left compared to the right hemisphere. These results support a model of cooperation between hemispheres, with asymmetric interhemispheric and intrahemispheric connectivity consistent with the left hemisphere specialization for phonological processing. Finally, we found greater interhemispheric connectivity in girls compared to boys, consistent with the hypothesis of a more bilateral representation of language in females than males. However, interhemispheric communication was associated with slow performance and low verbal intelligent quotient within girls. We suggest that females may have the potential for greater interhemispheric cooperation, which may be an advantage in certain tasks. However, in other tasks too much communication between hemispheres may interfere with task performance.