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Neuroimage. 2011 Jan 15;54(2):1488-94. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.08.058. Epub 2010 Aug 31.

The structure and connectivity of semantic memory in the healthy older adult brain.

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University of Queensland, School of Psychology, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.


The anterior temporal lobes (ATLs) have been proposed to serve as a "hub" linking amodal or domain general information about the meaning of words, objects, facts and people distributed throughout the brain in semantic memory. The two primary sources of evidence supporting this proposal, viz. structural imaging studies in semantic dementia (SD) patients and functional imaging investigations, are not without problems. Similarly, knowledge about the anatomo-functional connectivity of semantic memory is limited to a handful of intra-operative electrocortical stimulation (IES) investigations in patients. Here, using principal components analyses (PCA) of a battery of conceptual and non-conceptual tests coupled with voxel based morphometry (VBM) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) in a sample of healthy older adults aged 55-85 years, we show that amodal semantic memory relies on a predominantly left lateralised network of grey matter regions involving the ATL, posterior temporal and posterior inferior parietal lobes, with prominent involvement of the left inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus (IFOF) and uncinate fasciculus fibre pathways. These results demonstrate relationships between semantic memory, brain structure and connectivity essential for human communication and cognition.

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