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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2015 Apr;51:296-312. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2015.02.004. Epub 2015 Feb 16.

Is the difference between right and left ATLs due to the distinction between general and social cognition or between verbal and non-verbal representations?

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Center for Neuropsychological Research and Institute of Neurology of the Catholic University of Rome, Italy; IRCCS Fondazione Santa Lucia, Department of Clinical and Behavioral Neurology, Rome, Italy. Electronic address:


The present review aimed to check two proposals alternative to the original version of the 'semantic hub' hypothesis, based on semantic dementia (SD) data, which assumed that left and right anterior temporal lobes (ATLs) store in a unitary, amodal format all kinds of semantic representations. The first alternative proposal is that the right ATL might subsume non-verbal representations and the left ATL lexical-semantic representations and that only in the advanced stages of SD, when atrophy affects the ATLs bilaterally, the semantic impairment becomes 'multi-modal'. The second alternative suggestion is that right and left ATLs might underlie two different domains of knowledge, because general conceptual knowledge might be supported by the left ATL, and social cognition by the right ATL. Results of the review substantially support the first proposal, showing that the right ATL subsumes non-verbal representations and the left ATL lexical-semantic representations. They are less conclusive about the second suggestion, because the right ATL seems to play a more important role in behavioral and emotional functions than in higher level social cognition.


Behavioral–emotional functions; Non-verbal conceptual representations; Right anterior temporal lobe; Semantic hub hypothesis; Social cognition

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