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J Neurosci. 2012 Jan 11;32(2):481-9. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1953-11.2012.

Predicting conceptual processing capacity from spontaneous neuronal activity of the left middle temporal gyrus.

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State Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China.


Conceptual processing is a crucial brain function for humans. Past research using neuropsychological and task-based functional brain-imaging paradigms indicates that widely distributed brain regions are related to conceptual processing. Here, we explore the potential contribution of intrinsic or spontaneous brain activity to conceptual processing by examining whether resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI) signals can account for individual differences in the conceptual processing efficiencies of healthy individuals. We acquired rs-fMRI and behavioral data on object conceptual processing tasks. We found that the regional amplitude of spontaneous low-frequency fluctuations in the blood oxygen level-dependent signal in the left (posterior) middle temporal gyrus (LMTG) was highly correlated with participants' semantic processing efficiency. Furthermore, the strength of the functional connectivity between the LMTG and a series of brain regions-the left inferior frontal gyrus, bilateral anterior temporal lobe, bilateral medial temporal lobe, posterior cingulate gyrus, and ventromedial and dorsomedial prefrontal cortices-also significantly predicted conceptual behavior. The regional amplitude of low-frequency fluctuations and functionally relevant connectivity strengths of LMTG together accounted for 74% of individual variance in object conceptual performance. This semantic network, with the LMTG as its core component, largely overlaps with the regions reported in previous conceptual/semantic task-based fMRI studies. We conclude that the intrinsic or spontaneous activity of the human brain reflects the processing efficiency of the semantic system.

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