Since the late 1980s, the advent of functional neuroimaging techniques, including positron emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), has endorsed researchers with great power to map language onto the intact living human brain. The fundamental working principle of brain-mapping techniques is that changes in neuronal activity associated with a cognitive or a motor task are accompanied by focal changes in cerebral blood flow (Fox et al., 1986), cerebral blood volume (Fox & Raichle, 1986), and blood oxygenation (Bandettini et al., 1992; Fox, 1988). By measuring hemodynamic responses underlying neuronal events, such as in fMRI, researchers are able to localize brain activation with high spatial and temporal resolution. In recent years, brain-mapping research about language has grown extremely rapidly and has, consequently, contributed significantly to the vast amount of discoveries in psycholinguistics and cognitive neuroscience (e.g. Brown & Hagoort, 1999; Tan, Gao & Fox, 2003).
Many functional neuroimaging scans have been successfully performed with the Chinese language in the past few years. Important findings have been obtained that elucidate the brain mechanisms of visual character recognition (Chee et al., 2001; Y. Chen et al., 2002; Fu et al., 2002; Kuo et al., 2001; Li, Jin & Tan, 2004; Liu & Perfetti, 2003; Tan et al., 2000, 2001b, 2003; Xiang et al., 2003), Chinese tone and intonation perception (Gandour et al., 2000, 2003b; Klein et al., 2001), consonant and vowel processing (Gandour et al., 2003c; Siok et al., 2003), passive Chinese speech production (He et al., 2003; Tan et al., 2001a), syntactic and semantic analysis of sentences (Luke et al., 2002), and bilingualism (Chee, Tan & Thiel, 1999; Chee et al., 2000; Klein et al., 2001; Pu et al., 2001; Tan et al., 2003).