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.