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Dissociable contributions of frontal and temporal brain regions to basic semantic composition

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Graessner,  Astrid
Lise Meitner Research Group Cognition and Plasticity, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
Department Neuropsychology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Zaccarella,  Emiliano
Department Neuropsychology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Friederici,  Angela D.
Department Neuropsychology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Obrig,  Hellmuth
Clinic for Cognitive Neurology, University of Leipzig, Germany;
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Hartwigsen,  Gesa
Lise Meitner Research Group Cognition and Plasticity, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
Department Neuropsychology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Graessner_Zaccarella_2021.pdf
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Citation

Graessner, A., Zaccarella, E., Friederici, A. D., Obrig, H., & Hartwigsen, G. (2021). Dissociable contributions of frontal and temporal brain regions to basic semantic composition. Brain Communications, 3(2): fcab090. doi:10.1093/braincomms/fcab090.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0008-DF88-4
Abstract
Semantic composition is the ability to combine single words to form complex meanings and is an essential component for successful communication. Evidence from neuroimaging studies suggests that semantic composition engages a widely distributed left-hemispheric network, including the anterior temporal lobe, the inferior frontal gyrus and the angular gyrus. To date, the functional relevance of these regions remains unclear. Here, we investigate the impact of lesions to key regions in the semantic network on basic semantic composition. We conducted a multivariate lesion-behaviour mapping study in 36 native German speaking participants with chronic lesions to the language network after left-hemispheric stroke. During the experiment, participants performed a plausibility judgement task on auditorily presented adjective-noun phrases that were either meaningful (‘anxious horse’), anomalous (‘anxious salad’) or had the noun replaced by a pseudoword (‘anxious gufel’), as well as a single-word control condition (‘horse’). We observed that reduced accuracy for anomalous phrases is associated with lesions in left anterior inferior frontal gyrus, whereas increased reaction times for anomalous phrases correlates with lesions in anterior-to-mid temporal lobe. These results indicate that anterior inferior frontal gyrus is relevant for accurate semantic decisions, while anterior-to-mid temporal lobe lesions lead to slowing of the decision for anomalous two-word phrases. These differential effects of lesion location support the notion that anterior inferior frontal gyrus affords executive control for decisions on semantic composition while anterior-to-mid temporal lobe lesions slow the semantic processing of the individual constituents of the phrase.