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Representation of associative and affective semantic similarity of abstract words in the lateral temporal perisylvian language regions

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

The examination of semantic cognition has traditionally identified word concreteness as well as valence as two of the principal dimensions in the representation of conceptual knowledge. More recently, corpus-based vector space models as well as graph-theoretical analysis of large-scale task-related behavioural responses have revolutionized our insight into how the meaning of words is structured. In this fMRI study, we apply representational similarity analysis to investigate the conceptual representation of abstract words. Brain activity patterns were related to a cued-association based graph as well as to a vector-based co-occurrence model of word meaning. Twenty-six subjects (19 females and 7 males) performed an overt repetition task during fMRI. First, we performed a searchlight classification procedure to identify regions where activity is discriminable between abstract and concrete words. These regions were left inferior frontal gyrus, the upper and lower bank of the superior temporal sulcus bilaterally, posterior middle temporal gyrus and left fusiform gyrus. Representational Similarity Analysis demonstrated that for abstract words, the similarity of activity patterns in the cortex surrounding the superior temporal sulcus bilaterally and in the left anterior superior temporal gyrus reflects the similarity in word meaning. These effects were strongest for semantic similarity derived from the cued association-based graph and for affective similarity derived from either of the two models. The latter effect was mainly driven by positive valence words. This research highlights the close neurobiological link between the information structure of abstract and affective word content and the similarity in activity pattern in the lateral and anterior temporal language system.
Journal: NeuroImage
ISSN: 1053-8119
Volume: 217
Number of pages: 18
Publication year:2020