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Can segregation within the semantic system account for category-specific deficits?


Noppeney,  U
Research Group Cognitive Neuroimaging, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Phillips, J., Noppeney, U., Humphreys, G., & Price, C. (2002). Can segregation within the semantic system account for category-specific deficits? Brain, 125(9), 2067-2080. Retrieved from

Functional neuroimaging was used to investigate the extent to which category-specific semantic deficits in patients can be accounted for in terms of the demands placed on neural systems underlying different types of semantic knowledge. Unlike previous functional imaging studies of category specificity, we used a factorial design that crossed category (tools and fruits) with tasks requiring retrieval of either action or perceptual (real life size) knowledge. The presentation of tools relative to fruit increased activation in the same left posterior middle temporal area that was linked to the retrieval of action knowledge in general (for fruit as well as tools). However, we found no correlation between activation evoked by fruit and the size retrieval task. The left medial anterior temporal cortex was the only region to be activated for fruit relative to tools. We argue that the sensory-functional theory of category-specific effects is insufficient to account for the current neuroimaging literature. However, the data do support a more refined version of the theory: tools, relative to fruit, are more strongly linked to manipulative/motor knowledge and, for some tasks, fruit may be more reliant on integrating multiple semantic features.