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Differential Contributions of Bilateral Ventral Anterior Temporal Lobe and Left Anterior Superior Temporal Gyrus to Semantic Processes
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (2011) 23 (10): 3121–3131.
Published: 01 October 2011
AbstractView article PDF
Studies of semantic dementia and repetitive TMS have suggested that the bilateral anterior temporal lobes (ATLs) underpin a modality-invariant representational hub within the semantic system. However, it is not clear whether all ATL subregions contribute in the same way. We utilized distortion-corrected fMRI to investigate the pattern of activation in the left and right ATL when participants performed a semantic decision task on auditory words, environmental sounds, or pictures. This showed that the ATL is not functionally homogeneous but is more graded. Both left and right ventral ATL (vATL) responded to all modalities in keeping with the notion that this region underpins multimodality semantic processing. In addition, there were graded differences across the hemispheres. Semantic processing of both picture and environmental sound stimuli was associated with equivalent bilateral vATL activation, whereas auditory words generated greater activation in left than right vATL. This graded specialization for auditory stimuli would appear to reflect the input from the left superior ATL, which responded solely to semantic decisions on the basis of spoken words and environmental sounds, suggesting that this region is specialized to auditory stimuli. A final noteworthy result was that these regions were activated for domain level decisions to singly presented stimuli, which appears to be incompatible with the hypotheses that the ATL is dedicated (a) to the representation of specific entities or (b) for combinatorial semantic processes.
Semantic Processing in the Anterior Temporal Lobes: A Meta-analysis of the Functional Neuroimaging Literature
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (2010) 22 (6): 1083–1094.
Published: 01 June 2010
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The role of the anterior temporal lobes (ATLs) in semantic cognition is not clear from the current literature. Semantic dementia patients show a progressive and a specific semantic impairment, following bilateral atrophy of the ATLs. Neuroimaging studies of healthy participants, however, do not consistently show ATL activation during semantic tasks. Consequently, several influential theories of semantic memory do not ascribe a central role to the ATLs. We conducted a meta-analysis of 164 functional neuroimaging studies of semantic processing to investigate factors that might contribute to the inconsistency in previous results. Four factors influenced the likelihood of finding ATL activation: (1) the use of PET versus fMRI, reflecting the fact that fMRI but not PET is sensitive to distortion artifacts caused by large variations in magnetic susceptibility in the area of the ATL; (2) a field of view (FOV) of more than 15 cm, thereby ensuring whole-brain coverage; (3) the use of a high baseline task to prevent subtraction of otherwise uncontrolled semantic activation; (4) the inclusion of the ATL as an ROI. The type of stimuli or task did not influence the likelihood of ATL activation, consistent with the view that this region underpins an amodal semantic system. Spoken words, written words, and picture stimuli produced overlapping ATL peaks. On average, these were more inferior for picture-based tasks. We suggest that the specific pattern of ATL activation may be influenced by stimulus type due to variations across this region in the degree of connectivity with modality-specific areas in posterior temporal cortex.
No Right to Speak? The Relationship between Object Naming and Semantic Impairment:Neuropsychological Evidence and a Computational Model
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (2001) 13 (3): 341–356.
Published: 01 April 2001
AbstractView article PDF
The processes required for object naming were addressed in a study of patients with semantic dementia (a selective decline of semantic memory resulting from progressive temporal lobe atrophy) and in a computational model of single-word production. Although all patients with semantic dementia are impaired in both single-word production and comprehension, previous reports had indicated two different patterns: (a) a parallel decline in accuracy of naming and comprehension, with frequent semantic naming errors, suggesting a purely semantic basis for the anomia and (b) a dramatic progressive anomia. Longitudinal data for 16 patients with semantic dementia reflected these two profiles, but with the following additional important specifications: (1)despite a few relatively extreme versions of one or other profile, the full set of cases formed a continuum in the extent of anomia for a given degree of degraded comprehension; (2) the degree of disparity between these two abilities was associated with relative asymmetry in laterality of atrophy: a parallel decline in the two measures characterized patients with greater right-than left-temporal atrophy, while disproportionate anomia occurred with a predominance of atrophy in the left-temporal lobe. In an implemented computational model of naming, semantic representations were distributed across simulated left-and right-temporal regions, but the semantic units on the left were more strongly connected to left-lateralized phonological representations. Asymmetric damage to semantic units reproduced the longitudinal patient profiles of naming relative to comprehension, plus additional characteristics of the patients' naming performance. On the basis of both the neuropsychological and computational evidence, we propose that semantic impairment alone can account for the full range of word production deficits described here.