Functional neuroimaging studies of single-word processing have demonstrated decreased activation in left inferior prefrontal cortex (LIPC) during repeated semantic processing relative to initial semantic processing. This item-specific memory effect occurs under implicit test instructions and represents word-toword semantic repetition priming. The present study examined the stimulus generality of LIPC function by measuring prefrontal cortical activation during repeated relative to initial semantic processing of words (word-to-word semantic repetition priming) and of pictures (picture-to-picture semantic repetition priming). For both words and pictures, LIPC activation decreased with repetition, suggesting that this area subserves semantic analysis of stimuli regardless of perceptual form. Decreased activation was greater in extent for words than for pictures. The LIPC area may act as a semantic executive system that mediates on-line retrieval of long-term conceptual knowledge necessary for guiding task performance.

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