Abstract

Object recognition benefits greatly from our knowledge of typical color (e.g., a lemon is usually yellow). Most research on object color knowledge focuses on whether both knowledge and perception of object color recruit the well-established neural substrates of color vision (the V4 complex). Compared with the intensive investigation of the V4 complex, we know little about where and how neural mechanisms beyond V4 contribute to color knowledge. The anterior temporal lobe (ATL) is thought to act as a “hub” that supports semantic memory by integrating different modality-specific contents into a meaningful entity at a supramodal conceptual level, making it a good candidate zone for mediating the mappings between object attributes. Here, we explore whether the ATL is critical for integrating typical color with other object attributes (object shape and name), akin to its role in combining nonperceptual semantic representations. In separate experimental sessions, we applied TMS to disrupt neural processing in the left ATL and a control site (the occipital pole). Participants performed an object naming task that probes color knowledge and elicits a reliable color congruency effect as well as a control quantity naming task that also elicits a cognitive congruency effect but involves no conceptual integration. Critically, ATL stimulation eliminated the otherwise robust color congruency effect but had no impact on the numerical congruency effect, indicating a selective disruption of object color knowledge. Neither color nor numerical congruency effects were affected by stimulation at the control occipital site, ruling out nonspecific effects of cortical stimulation. Our findings suggest that the ATL is involved in the representation of object concepts that include their canonical colors.

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