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      Semantic memory and the brain: structure and processes

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      Current Opinion in Neurobiology

      Elsevier BV

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          Abstract

          Recent functional brain imaging studies suggest that object concepts may be represented, in part, by distributed networks of discrete cortical regions that parallel the organization of sensory and motor systems. In addition, different regions of the left lateral prefrontal cortex, and perhaps anterior temporal cortex, may have distinct roles in retrieving, maintaining and selecting semantic information.

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          Most cited references 57

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          Role of left inferior prefrontal cortex in retrieval of semantic knowledge: a reevaluation.

          A number of neuroimaging findings have been interpreted as evidence that the left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) subserves retrieval of semantic knowledge. We provide a fundamentally different interpretation, that it is not retrieval of semantic knowledge per se that is associated with left IFG activity but rather selection of information among competing alternatives from semantic memory. Selection demands were varied across three semantic tasks in a single group of subjects. Functional magnetic resonance imaging signal in overlapping regions of left IFG was dependent on selection demands in all three tasks. In addition, the degree of semantic processing was varied independently of selection demands in one of the tasks. The absence of left IFG activity for this comparison counters the argument that the effects of selection can be attributed solely to variations in degree of semantic retrieval. Our findings suggest that it is selection, not retrieval, of semantic knowledge that drives activity in the left IFG.
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            Representation of manipulable man-made objects in the dorsal stream.

             T. Martin,  Ning Chao (2000)
            We used fMRI to examine the neural response in frontal and parietal cortices associated with viewing and naming pictures of different categories of objects. Because tools are commonly associated with specific hand movements, we predicted that pictures of tools, but not other categories of objects, would elicit activity in regions of the brain that store information about motor-based properties. We found that viewing and naming pictures of tools selectively activated the left ventral premotor cortex (BA 6). Single-unit recording studies in monkeys have shown that neurons in the rostral part of the ventral premotor cortex (canonical F5 neurons) respond to the visual presentation of graspable objects, even in the absence of any subsequent motor activity. Thus, the left ventral premotor region that responded selectively to tools in the current study may be the human homolog of the monkey canonical F5 area. Viewing and naming tools also selectively activated the left posterior parietal cortex (BA 40). This response is similar to the firing of monkey anterior intraparietal neurons to the visual presentation of graspable objects. In humans and monkeys, there appears to be a close link between manipulable objects and information about the actions associated with their use. The selective activation of the left posterior parietal and left ventral premotor cortices by pictures of tools suggests that the ability to recognize and identify at least one category of objects (tools) may depend on activity in specific sites of the ventral and dorsal visual processing streams.
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              Neural correlates of category-specific knowledge.

              An intriguing and puzzling consequence of damage to the human brain is selective loss of knowledge about a specific category of objects. One patient may be unable to identify or name living things, whereas another may have selective difficulty identifying man-made objects. To investigate the neural correlates of this remarkable dissociation, we used positron emission tomography to map regions of the normal brain that are associated with naming animals and tools. We found that naming pictures of animals and tools was associated with bilateral activation of the ventral temporal lobes and Broca's area. In addition, naming animals selectively activated the left medial occipital lobe--a region involved in the earliest stages of visual processing. In contrast, naming tools selectively activated a left premotor area also activated by imagined hand movements, and an area in the left middle temporal gyrus also activated by the generation of action words. Thus the brain regions active during object identification are dependent, in part, on the intrinsic properties of the object presented.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Current Opinion in Neurobiology
                Current Opinion in Neurobiology
                Elsevier BV
                09594388
                April 2001
                April 2001
                : 11
                : 2
                : 194-201
                Article
                10.1016/S0959-4388(00)00196-3
                11301239
                © 2001

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