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Cogn Neuropsychol. 2009 Dec;26(8):685-704. doi: 10.1080/02643291003665688.

Converging functional magnetic resonance imaging evidence for a role of the left inferior frontal lobe in semantic retention during language comprehension.

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Rice University, Houston, TX 77005, USA.


Increasing evidence supports dissociable short-term memory (STM) capacities for semantic and phonological representations. Cognitive neuropsychological data suggest that damage to the left inferior and middle frontal gyri are associated with deficits of semantic STM, while damage to inferior parietal areas is associated with deficits of phonological STM. Patients identified as having semantic STM deficits are also impaired on a number of language comprehension and production paradigms. We used one such comprehension task derived from cognitive neuropsychological data to test predictions with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) using healthy participants. Using a task that required participants to make semantic anomaly judgements, we found significantly greater activation in areas of the left inferior frontal and middle frontal gyri for phrases that required maintenance of multiple words for eventual integration with a subsequent noun or verb. These data are consistent with our previous patient studies (Hanten & Martin, 2000; R. C. Martin & He, 2004; R. C. Martin & Romani, 1994 ) that suggest that semantic STM is associated with the left inferior and middle frontal gyri and that deficits of semantic STM have particular consequences for comprehension tasks that require maintenance of several word meanings in unintegrated form.

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