Recent evidence suggests that priming of objects across different images (abstract priming) and priming of specific images of an object (form-specific priming) are mediated by dissociable neural processing subsystems that operate in parallel and are predominantly linked to left and right hemispheric processing, respectively [Marsolek, C. J. Dissociable neural subsystems underlie abstract and specific object recognition. Psychological Science, 10, 111–118, 1999]. Previous brain imaging studies have provided important information about the neuroanatomical regions that are involved in form-specific and abstract priming; however, these techniques did not fully establish the functional significance of priming-related changes in cortical brain activity. Here, we used repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) in order to establish the functional role of the right occipital cortex in form-specific priming [Kroll, N. E. A., Yonelinas, A. P., Kishiyama, M. M., Baynes, K., Knight, R. T., & Gazzaniga, M. S. The neural substrates of visual implicit memory: Do the two hemispheres play different roles? Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 15, 833–842, 2003]. Compared to no TMS and sham TMS, rTMS of the right occipital cortex disrupted immediate form-specific priming in a semantic categorization task. Left occipital rTMS, on the other hand, had no converse effect on abstractive priming. Abstract priming may involve deeper semantic processing and may be unresponsive to magnetic stimulation of a single cortical locus. Our TMS results show that form-specific priming relies on a visual word-form system localized in the right occipital lobe, in line with the predictions from divided visual field behavioral studies [Marsolek, 1999].

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