The neural organization of semantic control: TMS evidence for a distributed network in left inferior frontal and posterior middle temporal gyrus

Carin Whitney, Marie Kirk, Jamie O'Sullivan, Matthew A. Lambon Ralph, Elizabeth Jefferies

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    Abstract

    Assigning meaning to words, sounds, and objects requires stored conceptual knowledge plus executive mechanisms that shape semantic retrieval according to the task or context. Despite the essential role of control in semantic cognition, its neural basis remains unclear. Neuroimaging and patient research has emphasized the importance of left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG)-however, impaired semantic control can also follow left temporoparietal lesions, suggesting that this function may be underpinned by a large-scale cortical network. We used repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation in healthy volunteers to disrupt processing within 2 potential sites in this network-IFG and posterior middle temporal cortex. Stimulation of both sites selectively disrupted executively demanding semantic judgments: semantic decisions based on strong automatic associations were unaffected. Performance was also unchanged in nonsemantic tasks-irrespective of their executive demands-and following stimulation of a control site. These results reveal that an extended network of prefrontal and posterior temporal regions underpins semantic control. © The Author 2010. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1066-1075
    Number of pages9
    JournalCerebral Cortex
    Volume21
    Issue number5
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - May 2011

    Keywords

    • executive functions
    • prefrontal cortex
    • semantic decisions
    • temporal cortex
    • transcranial magnetic stimulation

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