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J Nucl Med. 2006; 47 (Supplement 1):316P
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Poster Presentations - Physicians/Scientists/Pharmacists

Neurosciences Track

Cerebral blood flow during the complex vocalization task of glossolalia

Andrew Newberg1, Nancy Wintering1 and Donna Morgan1

1 Radiology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Objectives: Glossolalia is an unusual mental state in which the individual appears to be speaking in an incomprehensible language, that they have no control over, and yet feel that it has great personal meaning. The individual describes a lack of voluntary control over the vocalizations and also alterations in their spatial orientation. This is the first imaging study to determine if glossolalia is associated with specific changes in cerebral activity.

Methods: We studied 3 individuals (ages 41-52 years) who were adept at glossolalia and female. Since subjects need to be dancing and singing, we compared the glossolalia state to a dancing and singing state so that the only difference was whether they were engaged in glossolalia. Subjects had an intravenous catheter inserted and after 15 minutes, they were instructed to stand and begin singing. Approximately 5 minutes into the singing, the subject were injected with 250MBq of Tc-99m ECD. They completed their singing for another 10 minutes and then were scanned on a Picker 3000XP triple head camera with fan beam collimators for 40 minutes. Subjects then returned to the room to begin their glossolalia session. Approximately 5 minutes after beginning glossolalia, the subjects received a second injection of 925MBq ECD, performed the glossolalia for another 10 minutes, were stopped, and then underwent a second SPECT scan. Scans were resliced and aligned in the same plane and a region of interest template was placed on the initial brain scan and then copied onto the second scan. Counts in each region were determined and normalized to the mean whole brain counts to generate a region:whole brain ratio. A comparison of the glossolalia and singing scans were performed using the student’s t-test.

Results: The data between the glossolalia and singing state revealed several significant differences in spite of the limited sample size. The right PFC decreased from a mean region to whole brain ratio (±SD) of 1.33±0.06 to 1.17±0.02 (decrease of 12%, p<0.05) while the left went from 1.37±0.14 to 1.23±0.08 (decrease of 11%). There was also a significant decrease in the left caudate (p=0.02) which went from a ratio of 1.30±0.05 to 1.11±0.12 (decrease of 16%, p<0.05). On the other hand, the superior parietal lobes increased with the left having a greater increase from 1.13±0.06 to 1.27±0.07 (increase of 12%, p<0.007).

Conclusions: The observed cerebral blood flow changes are consistent with some of the described aspects of glossolalia. There is a perceived loss of control during glossolalia which may be related to the decreased PFC activity. There were no changes in any language areas suggesting that glossolalia is not associated with usual language function. The increase in the superior parietal lobes may be attributable to alterations in their spatial perceptions.

Copyright © 2006 by the Society of Nuclear Medicine.