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Left perirhinal cortex codes for semantic similarity between written words defined from cued word association
Journal Contribution - Journal Article
Knowledge of visual and nonvisual attributes of concrete entities is distributed over neocortical uni- and polymodal association cortex. Here we investigated the role of left perirhinal cortex in explicit knowledge retrieval from written words. We examined whether it extended across visual and nonvisual properties, animate and inanimate entities, how this differed from picture input and how specific it was for perirhinal cortex compared to surrounding structures. The semantic similarity between stimuli was determined on the basis of a word association-based model. Eighteen participants participated in this event-related fMRI experiment. During property verification, the left perirhinal cortex coded for the similarity in meaning between written words. No differences were found between visual and nonvisual properties or between animate and inanimate entities. Among the surrounding regions, a semantic similarity effect for written words was also present in the left parahippocampal gyrus, but not in the hippocampus nor in the right perirhinal cortex. Univariate analysis revealed higher activity for visual property verification in visual processing regions and for nonvisual property verification in an extended system encompassing the superior temporal sulcus along its anterior-posterior axis, the inferior and the superior frontal gyrus. The association strength between the concept and the property correlated positively with fMRI response amplitude in visual processing regions, and negatively with response amplitude in left inferior and superior frontal gyrus. The current findings establish that input-modality determines the semantic similarity effect in left perirhinal cortex more than the content of the knowledge retrieved or the semantic control demand do. We propose that left perirhinal cortex codes for the association between a concrete written word and the object it refers to and operates as a connector hub linking written word input to the distributed cortical representation of word meaning.
Pages: 127 - 139
Number of pages: 13