There are many structures that form part of the nervous system, the cerebral cortex being one of the most developed in the human being. In it it is possible to observe the presence of a great amount of circumvolutions and furrows, being folds that allow the condensation in a small space of a great amount of neuronal mass.

These folds are part of the grey matter of the brain and participate in different functions. One of them is the tongue twist , about which we will talk briefly throughout this article.

Tongue twisting: what is it and where is it found?

One of the brain’s convolutions or turns is called a tongue twist, that is, the part that comes out of the folds in the cortex. It is a gyrus not as well known or popular as others as the supramarginal gyrus, but it seems to have a great importance in different brain functions.

The lingual gyrus is located in the occipital lobe , in its middle part, and is located between the calcarine fissure and the collateral sulcus. At its ends it joins the visual area when in contact with the wedge, while at the other end it joins the parahippocampal gyrus in the temporal lobe.

Although the name of this brain region seems to indicate a relationship with speech, the truth is that its name has nothing to do with its function: the name of this turn comes largely from its language-like form . However, curiously enough, it is involved in some aspects of language, although not in oral ones.

Main functions of this part of the brain

Tongue twisting is a brain gyrus that is involved or participates in different functions of great relevance to humans . Among them we can highlight the following.

1. Importance of visual processing and color perception

It has been observed that tongue twisting, as an active part of the occipital lobe, is associated with the ability to encode complex images. It also seems to be linked to subjective colour perception, producing its lesion acromatopsia.

2. Participate in the visual memory

Likewise, different investigations have shown that tongue twisting not only participates in the codification of images but also has a relevant role in visual memory, producing its lesion different stimulus recognition problems . In fact, tongue twisting is one of the areas that allows us to identify stimuli with symbolic meaning, such as letters. In addition, it also allows us to recognize faces and objects.

3. Reading

We have previously said that tongue twisting, despite its name, was not largely associated with speech ability but that it did have some involvement in language. This is because another of the great functions associated with tongue twisting has to do with reading, being one of the parts of the brain that allows to identify and name the stimuli through vision to later transform them, being a first relevant step to allow reading.

4. Semantic processing

In addition to the purely visual, tongue twisting is involved in the processing of semantic information both in situations where the visual stimulus has symbolic elements per se or the subject attempts to attribute them.

5. Involvement in emotion

The tongue twist is also connected to the parahippocampal twist , so it is in contact with the limbic system. It has been observed that the activation of this gyration correlates with the impression of emotionality to the images.

6. The capacity to imagine: divergent thinking and creativity

The ability to create and elaborate different strategies from the usual and known ones in order to solve problems is also linked to the activity of tongue twisting, although it is more strongly associated with the frontal lobe. Specifically, tongue twisting would be linked to the creation and elaboration of mental images that are part of the imagination.

7. The ability to dream

Another aspect that has been associated with tongue twisting is the link that has been observed between this twisting and the possibility of elaborating images during sleep , being at least partly responsible for our being able to have dreams.

Problems associated with your injury

Tongue twist injury can generate different types of problems and deficits that can lead to a deterioration or limitation of the functionality of the human being in his day to day. Among them, the possible appearance of pure alexia or the impossibility of reading (despite the preservation of the ability to write) stands out.

Another problem that can appear is prosopagnosia, a type of visual agnosia in which we are unable to recognize familiar faces.

Memorization and spatial navigation are also altered , as well as acromatopsia or color blindness may appear.

It has also been observed that tongue twisting injury, generally due to strokes in that area, tends to generate the loss of the ability to dream . In addition to the above, tongue twisting has also been associated with other problems: one example is the recently studied link between tongue twisting and the severity of anxiety-depressive symptoms in young people.

The excessive activation of this area also has effects: it has been observed that visual noise can be generated, the perception of small black and white dots in the whole visual field that resemble the snow effect that would happen in an old television with a malfunctioning antenna.

Bibliographic references:

  • Couvy-Duchesne, B.; Strike, L.T.; de Zubicaray, G.; McMachon, K.L.; Thompson, P.M.; Hickie, I.B.; Martin, N.G. & Wright, M.J. (2018). Lingual Gyrus Surface Area is associated with anxiety-depression severity in young adults: a genetic clustering approach. eNeuro, 5 (1).
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  • Bogousslavsky, J.; Miklossy, J.; Deruaz, J.P.; Assal, G. & Regli, F. (1987). Lingual and fusiform gyri in visual processing: a clinico-pathological study of superior altitudinal hemianopia. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, 50: 607-617.
  • Kehoe, E. G.; Toomey, J. M.; Balsters, J. H., & Bokde, A. L. (2012). Healthy aging is associated with increased neural processing of positive valence but attenuated processing of emotional arousal: an fMRI study. Neurobiol Aging.
  • Zhang, L.; Qiao, L.; Chen, Q.; Yand, W.; Xu, M.; Yao, X.; Qiu, J. & Yang, D. (2016). Gray Matter Volume of the Lingual Gyrus Mediates the Relationship between Inhibition Function and Divergent Thinking. Front. Psychol, 7: 1532.
  • Zilles, K. & Amunts, K. (2012). Architecture of the Cerebral Cortex. In: Mai, J. & Paxinos, G. (2012). The Human Nervous System. 3rd edition.