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Neuropsychologia. 2010 May;48(6):1757-66. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.02.025. Epub 2010 Mar 3.

On the characterization of the spatio-temporal profiles of brain activity associated with face naming and the tip-of-the-tongue state: a magnetoencephalographic (MEG) study.

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Laboratorio de Psicofisioloxía e Neurociencia Cognitiva, Facultade de Psicoloxía, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, Galiza, Spain.


The tip-of-the-tongue state (TOT) in face naming is a transient state of difficulty in access to a person's name along with the conviction that the name is known. The aim of the present study was to characterize the spatio-temporal course of brain activation in the successful naming and TOT states, by means of magnetoencephalography, during a face-naming task. Following famous face presentations, subjects indicated whether they knew the name, did not know the name, or experienced a TOT state. Next they produced the name aloud, if they could, although they did not indicate whether they retrieved any other information about the person. The TOT state was characterized by lower activation than for successful retrieval, in the 310-520 ms poststimulus interval, localized to left temporal and frontal areas, bilateral parahippocampal gyrus, and right fusiform gyrus, which may underlie the genesis of TOT. Greater activation was also found in the 740-820 ms interval, localized to bilateral occipital, left temporal, and right frontal and parietal areas, corresponding with the unfruitful search for the name after the TOT state was produced. These results showed the differential brain dynamics underlying searching for the name of a known individual according to whether the search was successful or subjectively rated as just short of success.

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