Effect of language task demands on the neural response during lexical access: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study.
ABSTRACT: This study examined the effects of linguistic task demands on the neuroanatomical localization of the neural response related to automatic semantic processing of concrete German nouns combining the associative priming paradigm with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). To clarify the functional role of the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) for semantic processing with respect to semantic decision making compared to semantic processing per se, we used a linguistic task that involved either a binary decision process (i.e., semantic categorization; Experiment 1) or not (i.e., silently thinking about a word's meaning; Experiment 2). We observed associative priming effects indicated as neural suppression in bilateral superior temporal gyri (STG), anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), occipito-temporal brain areas, and in medial frontal brain areas independently of the linguistic task. Inferior parietal brain areas were more active for silently thinking about a word's meaning compared to semantic categorization. A conjunction analysis of linguistic task revealed that both tasks activated the same left-lateralized occipito-temporo-frontal network including the IFG. Contrasting neural associative priming effects across linguistic task demands, we found a significant interaction in the right IFG. The present fMRI data give rise to the assumption that activation of the left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG) in the semantic domain might be important for semantic processing in general and not only for semantic decision making. These findings contrast with a recent study regarding the role of the LIFG for binary decision making in the lexical domain (Wright et al. 2011).
Project description:Previous studies have suggested atypically enhanced activity of visual cortex during language processing in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, it remains unclear whether visual cortical participation reflects isolated processing within posterior regions or functional cooperation with distal brain regions, such as left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG). We addressed this question using functional connectivity MRI (fcMRI) and structural equation modeling in 14 adolescents and adults with ASD and 14 matched typically developing (TD) participants. Data were analyzed to isolate low-frequency intrinsic fluctuations, by regressing out effects of a semantic decision task. For a right extrastriate seed derived from the strongest cluster of atypical activation in the ASD group, widespread effects of increased connectivity in prefrontal and medial frontal lobes bilaterally were observed for the ASD group, compared to the TD group. A second analysis for a seed in LIFG, derived from pooled activation effects in both groups, also yielded widespread effects of overconnectivity in the ASD group, especially in temporal lobes. Structural equation modeling showed that whereas right extrastriate cortex did not impact function of language regions (left and right IFG, left middle temporal gyrus) in the TD model, it was an integral part of a language circuit in the ASD group. These results suggest that atypical extrastriate activation during language processing in ASD reflects integrative (not isolated) processing. Furthermore, our findings are inconsistent with previous reports of functional underconnectivity in ASD, probably related to removal of task effects required to isolate intrinsic low-frequency fluctuations.
Project description:Single words have affective and aesthetic properties that influence their processing. Here we investigated the processing of a special case of word stimuli that are extremely difficult to evaluate, bivalent noun-noun-compounds (NNCs), i.e. novel words that mix a positive and negative noun, e.g. 'Bombensex' (bomb-sex). In a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiment we compared their processing with easier-to-evaluate non-bivalent NNCs in a valence decision task (VDT). Bivalent NNCs produced longer reaction times and elicited greater activation in the left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG) than non-bivalent words, especially in contrast to words of negative valence. We attribute this effect to a LIFG-grounded process of semantic integration that requires greater effort for processing converse information, supporting the notion of a valence representation based on associations in semantic networks.
Project description:Broca's area is preferentially activated by reversible sentences with complex syntax, but various linguistic factors may be responsible for this finding, including syntactic movement, working-memory demands, and post hoc reanalysis. To distinguish between these, we tested the interaction of syntactic complexity and semantic reversibility in a functional magnetic resonance imaging study of sentence-picture matching. During auditory comprehension, semantic reversibility induced selective activation throughout the left perisylvian language network. In contrast, syntactic complexity (object-embedded vs. subject-embedded relative clauses) within reversible sentences engaged only the left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG) and left precentral gyrus. Within irreversible sentences, only the LIFG was sensitive to syntactic complexity, confirming a unique role for this region in syntactic processing. Nonetheless, larger effects of reversibility itself occurred in the same regions, suggesting that full syntactic parsing may be a nonautomatic process applied as needed. Complex reversible sentences also induced enhanced signals in LIFG and left precentral regions on subsequent picture selection, but with additional recruitment of the right hemisphere homolog area (right inferior frontal gyrus) as well, suggesting that post hoc reanalysis of sentence structure, compared with initial comprehension, engages an overlapping but larger network of brain regions. These dissociable effects may offer a basis for studying the reorganization of receptive language function after brain damage.
Project description:Studies show that semantic effects may be task-specific, and thus, that semantic representations are flexible and dynamic. Such findings are critical to the development of a comprehensive theory of semantic processing in visual word recognition, which should arguably account for how semantic effects may vary by task. It has been suggested that semantic effects are more directly examined using tasks that explicitly require meaning processing relative to those for which meaning processing is not necessary (e.g., lexical decision task). The purpose of the present study was to chart the processing of concrete versus abstract words in the context of a global co-occurrence variable, semantic neighborhood density (SND), by comparing word recognition response times (RTs) across four tasks varying in explicit semantic demands: standard lexical decision task (with non-pronounceable non-words), go/no-go lexical decision task (with pronounceable non-words), progressive demasking task, and sentence relatedness task. The same experimental stimulus set was used across experiments and consisted of 44 concrete and 44 abstract words, with half of these being low SND, and half being high SND. In this way, concreteness and SND were manipulated in a factorial design using a number of visual word recognition tasks. A consistent RT pattern emerged across tasks, in which SND effects were found for abstract (but not necessarily concrete) words. Ultimately, these findings highlight the importance of studying interactive effects in word recognition, and suggest that linguistic associative information is particularly important for abstract words.
Project description:Sentences such as The author started the book are indeterminate because they do not make explicit what the subject (the author) started doing with the object (the book). In principle, indeterminate sentences allow for an infinite number of interpretations. One theory, however, assumes that these sentences are resolved by semanticcoercion, a linguistic process that forces the noun book to be interpreted as an activity (e.g., writing the book) or by a process that interpolates this activity information in the resulting enriched semantic composition. An alternative theory, pragmatic, assumes classical semantic composition, whereby meaning arises from the denotation of words and how they are combined syntactically, with enrichment obtained via pragmatic inferences beyond linguistic-semantic processes. Cognitive neuroscience studies investigating the neuroanatomical and functional correlates of indeterminate sentences have shown activations either at the ventromedial pre-frontal cortex (vmPFC) or at the left inferior frontal gyrus (L-IFG). These studies have supported the semantic coercion theory assuming that one of these regions is where enriched semantic composition takes place. Employing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we found that indeterminate sentences activate bilaterally the superior temporal gyrus (STG), the right inferior frontal gyrus (R-IFG), and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), more so than control sentences (The author wrote the book). Activation of indeterminate sentences exceeded that of anomalous sentences (…drank the book) and engaged more left- and right-hemisphere areas than other sentence types. We suggest that the widespread activations for indeterminate sentences represent the deployment of pragmatic-inferential processes, which seek to enrich sentence content without necessarily resorting to semantic coercion.
Project description:Controlled semantic retrieval to words elicits co-activation of inferior frontal (IFG) and left posterior temporal cortex (pMTG), but research has not yet established (i) the distinct contributions of these regions or (ii) whether the same processes are recruited for non-verbal stimuli. Words have relatively flexible meanings - as a consequence, identifying the context that links two specific words is relatively demanding. In contrast, pictures are richer stimuli and their precise meaning is better specified by their visible features - however, not all of these features will be relevant to uncovering a given association, tapping selection/inhibition processes. To explore potential differences across modalities, we took a commonly-used manipulation of controlled retrieval demands, namely the identification of weak vs. strong associations, and compared word and picture versions. There were 4 key findings: (1) Regions of interest (ROIs) in posterior IFG (BA44) showed graded effects of modality (e.g., words>pictures in left BA44; pictures>words in right BA44). (2) An equivalent response was observed in left mid-IFG (BA45) across modalities, consistent with the multimodal semantic control deficits that typically follow LIFG lesions. (3) The anterior IFG (BA47) ROI showed a stronger response to verbal than pictorial associations, potentially reflecting a role for this region in establishing a meaningful context that can be used to direct semantic retrieval. (4) The left pMTG ROI also responded to difficulty across modalities yet showed a stronger response overall to verbal stimuli, helping to reconcile two distinct literatures that have implicated this site in semantic control and lexical-semantic access respectively. We propose that left anterior IFG and pMTG work together to maintain a meaningful context that shapes ongoing semantic processing, and that this process is more strongly taxed by word than picture associations.
Project description:While converging sources of evidence point to the possibility of a large-scale distributed network for semantic cognition, a consensus regarding the underlying subregions and their specific function in this network has not been reached. In the current study, we combined functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) methodology to investigate the neural basis of semantic cognition in Mandarin Chinese. In the fMRI experiment, strong activations were observed in left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and left middle temporal gyrus (MTG) for semantic judgment task. Moreover, functional connectivity was found from seed region left IFG to left MTG. Meanwhile, negative correlation between performance and extracted parameter estimates from left IFG to left MTG was detected in semantic task. Subsequent TMS stimulation over left IFG resulted in performance deficits in semantic judgment task, in contrast to other three sites: left MTG, right intraparietal sulcus (IPS) and a control site. We concluded that the neural basis of semantic processing for Mandarin Chinese closely resembled that for alphabetic languages such as English, supporting a language-universal view on semantic cognition.
Project description:Semantic memory comprises our knowledge of the meanings of words and objects but only some of this knowledge is relevant at any given time. Thus, semantic control processes are needed to focus retrieval on relevant information. Research on the neural basis of semantic control has strongly implicated left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG) but recent work suggests that a wider network supports semantic control, including left posterior middle temporal gyrus (pMTG), right inferior frontal gyrus (RIFG) and pre-supplementary motor area (pre-SMA). In the current study, we used repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (1Hz offline TMS) over LIFG, immediately followed by fMRI, to examine modulation of the semantic network. We compared the effect of stimulation on judgements about strongly-associated words (dog-bone) and weaker associations (dog-beach), since previous studies have found that dominant links can be recovered largely automatically with little engagement of LIFG, while more distant connections require greater control. Even though behavioural performance was maintained in response to TMS, LIFG stimulation increased the effect of semantic control demands in pMTG and pre-SMA, relative to stimulation of a control site (occipital pole). These changes were accompanied by reduced recruitment of both the stimulated region (LIFG) and its right hemisphere homologue (RIFG), particularly for strong associations with low control requirements. Thus repetitive TMS to LIFG modulated the contribution of distributed regions to semantic judgements in two distinct ways.
Project description:Semantic cognition, i.e. processing of meaning is based on semantic representations and their controlled retrieval. Semantic control has been shown to be implemented in a network that consists of left inferior frontal (IFG), and anterior and posterior middle temporal gyri (a/pMTG). We aimed to disrupt semantic control processes with continuous theta burst stimulation (cTBS) over left IFG and pMTG and to study whether behavioral effects are moderated by induced alterations in resting-state functional connectivity. To this end, we applied real cTBS over left IFG and left pMTG as well as sham stimulation on 20 healthy participants in a within-subject design. Stimulation was followed by resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging and a semantic priming paradigm. Resting-state functional connectivity of regions of interest in left IFG, pMTG and aMTG revealed highly interconnected left-lateralized fronto-temporal networks representing the semantic system. We did not find any significant direct modulation of either task performance or resting-state functional connectivity by effective cTBS. However, after sham cTBS, functional connectivity between IFG and pMTG correlated with task performance under high semantic control demands in the semantic priming paradigm. These findings provide evidence for the functional relevance of interactions between IFG and pMTG for semantic control processes. This interaction was functionally less relevant after cTBS over aIFG which might be interpretable in terms of an indirect disruptive effect of cTBS.