Proper names are linguistic expressions referring to unique entities, such as individual people or places. This sets them apart from other words like common nouns, which refer to generic concepts. And yet, despite both being individual entities, one's closest friend and one's favorite city are intuitively associated with very different pieces of knowledge—face, voice, social relationship, autobiographical experiences for the former, and mostly visual and spatial information for the latter. Neuroimaging research has revealed the existence of both domain-general and domain-specific brain correlates of semantic processing of individual entities; however, it remains unclear how such commonalities and similarities operate over a fine-grained temporal scale. In this work, we tackle this question using EEG and multivariate (time-resolved and searchlight) decoding analyses. We look at when and where we can accurately decode the semantic category of a proper name and whether we can find person- or place-specific effects of familiarity, which is a modality-independent dimension and therefore avoids sensorimotor differences inherent among the two categories. Semantic category can be decoded in a time window and with spatial localization typically associated with lexical semantic processing. Regarding familiarity, our results reveal that it is easier to distinguish patterns of familiarity-related evoked activity for people, as opposed to places, in both early and late time windows. Second, we discover that within the early responses, both domain-general (left posterior-lateral) and domain-specific (right fronto-temporal, only for people) neural patterns can be individuated, suggesting the existence of person-specific processes.

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