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Cognition. 2004 May-Jun;92(1-2):179-229.

Neural systems behind word and concept retrieval.

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Department of Neurology, Division of Behavioral Neurology and Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Iowa College of Medicine, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA.


Using both the lesion method and functional imaging (positron emission tomography) in large cohorts of subjects investigated with the same experimental tasks, we tested the following hypotheses: (A) that the retrieval of words which denote concrete entities belonging to distinct conceptual categories depends upon partially segregated regions in higher-order cortices of the left temporal lobe; and (B) that the retrieval of conceptual knowledge pertaining to the same concrete entities also depends on partially segregated regions; however, those regions will be different from those postulated in hypothesis A, and located predominantly in the right hemisphere (the second hypothesis tested only with the lesion method). The analyses provide support for hypothesis A in that several regions outside the classical Broca and Wernicke language areas are involved in name retrieval of concrete entities, and that there is a partial segregation in the temporal lobe with respect to the conceptual category to which the entities belong, and partial support for hypothesis B in that retrieval of conceptual knowledge is partially segregated from name retrieval in the lesion study. Those regions identified here are seen as parts of flexible, multi-component systems serving concept and word retrieval for concrete entities belonging to different conceptual categories. By comparing different approaches the article also addresses a number of method issues that have surfaced in recent studies in this field.

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