Distinct neural processes are thought to support the retrieval of semantic information that is (i) coherent with strongly-encoded aspects of knowledge, and (ii) non-dominant yet relevant for the current task or context. While the brain regions that support readily coherent and more controlled patterns of semantic retrieval are relatively well-characterised, the temporal dynamics of these processes are not well-understood. This study used magnetoencephalography (MEG) and dual-pulse chronometric transcranial magnetic stimulation (cTMS) in two separate experiments to examine temporal dynamics during the retrieval of strong and weak associations. MEG results revealed a dissociation within left temporal cortex: anterior temporal lobe (ATL) showed greater oscillatory response for strong than weak associations, while posterior middle temporal gyrus (pMTG) showed the reverse pattern. Left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), a site associated with semantic control and retrieval, showed both patterns at different time points. In the cTMS experiment, stimulation of ATL at ∼150ms disrupted the efficient retrieval of strong associations, indicating a necessary role for ATL in coherent conceptual activations. Stimulation of pMTG at the onset of the second word disrupted the retrieval of weak associations, suggesting this site may maintain information about semantic context from the first word, allowing efficient engagement of semantic control. Together these studies provide converging evidence for a functional dissociation within the temporal lobe, across both tasks and time.
- Anterior temporal
- Posterior middle temporal gyrus
- Semantic memory