Regions in left occipitotemporal (OT) cortex, including the putative visual word form area, are among the most commonly activated in imaging studies of single-word reading. It remains unclear whether this part of the brain is more precisely characterized as specialized for words and/or letters or contains more general-use visual regions having properties useful for processing word stimuli, among others. In Analysis 1, we found no evidence of greater activity in left OT regions for words or letter strings relative to other high–spatial frequency high-contrast stimuli, including line drawings and Amharic strings (which constitute the Ethiopian writing system). In Analysis 2, we further investigated processing characteristics of OT cortex potentially useful in reading. Analysis 2 showed that a specific part of OT cortex 1) is responsive to visual feature complexity, measured by the number of strokes forming groups of letters or Amharic strings and 2) processes learned combinations of characters, such as those in words and pseudowords, as groups but does not do so in consonant and Amharic strings. Together, these results indicate that while regions of left OT cortex are not specialized for words, at least part of OT cortex has properties particularly useful for processing words and letters.
extrastriate; fMRI; fusiform; orthography; reading
As demonstrated by the attentional blink (AB) phenomenon, awareness for attended stimuli is governed by sharp capacity limits. We used a linguistic AB task to investigate the neural mechanisms that underlie failures of awareness, examining both event-related potentials and oscillatory brain activity to correctly reported and missed second targets (T2s) presented after a correctly reported first target (T1) in a rapid visual stream of distractors. Correctly reported targets occurring at a short lag (250 ms) after T1—within the classic AB period—elicited enhanced late gamma activity relative to incorrectly reported targets but showed no P300 modulation relative to missed targets. In contrast, correctly reported targets presented at a long lag (830 ms)—outside the classic AB period—elicited a greater P300 component but did not significantly modulate oscillatory activity. This double dissociation suggests that there are multiple neural mechanisms supporting awareness that may operate in parallel. Either the P300 or the gamma can index impairment in the cascade of processing leading to a target's entry into awareness. We conclude that the P300 and gamma activity reflect functionally distinct neural mechanisms, each of which plays an independent role in awareness.
attentional blink; awareness; gamma; oscillations; P300
Turner syndrome (TS) offers a unique opportunity to investigate associations among genes, the brain, and cognitive phenotypes. In this study, we used 3 complementary analyses of diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) data (whole brain, region of interest, and fiber tractography) and a whole brain volumetric imaging technique to investigate white matter (WM) structure in prepubertal, nonmosaic, estrogen-naive girls with TS compared with age and sex matched typically developing controls. The TS group demonstrated significant WM aberrations in brain regions implicated in visuospatial abilities, face processing, and sensorimotor and social abilities compared with controls. Extensive spatial overlap between regions of aberrant WM structure (from DTI) and regions of aberrant WM volume were observed in TS. Our findings indicate that complete absence of an X chromosome in young females (prior to receiving exogenous estrogen) is associated with WM aberrations in specific regions implicated in characteristic cognitive features of TS.
diffusion tensor imaging (DTI); MRI; neuroimaging; turner syndrome; voxel-based morphometry (VBM)
The crux of vision is to identify objects and determine their locations in the environment. Although initial visual representations are necessarily retinotopic (eye centered), interaction with the real world requires spatiotopic (absolute) location information. We asked whether higher level human visual cortex—important for stable object recognition and action—contains information about retinotopic and/or spatiotopic object position. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging multivariate pattern analysis techniques, we found information about both object category and object location in each of the ventral, dorsal, and early visual regions tested, replicating previous reports. By manipulating fixation position and stimulus position, we then tested whether these location representations were retinotopic or spatiotopic. Crucially, all location information was purely retinotopic. This pattern persisted when location information was irrelevant to the task, and even when spatiotopic (not retinotopic) stimulus position was explicitly emphasized. We also conducted a “searchlight” analysis across our entire scanned volume to explore additional cortex but again found predominantly retinotopic representations. The lack of explicit spatiotopic representations suggests that spatiotopic object position may instead be computed indirectly and continually reconstructed with each eye movement. Thus, despite our subjective impression that visual information is spatiotopic, even in higher level visual cortex, object location continues to be represented in retinotopic coordinates.
eye position; multivoxel pattern analysis; object recognition; reference frame; ventral visual stream
Transcription factor COUP-TFII in rodents is important for migration of cortical interneurons from caudal ganglionic eminence (CGE) to the neocortex. Since in human, unlike in rodents, cortical interneurons have both ganglionic eminence (GE) and dorsal cortical origin, we studied the distribution of COUP-TFII in the human developing neocortex from 9 to 22 gestational weeks. COUP-TFII is expressed at all stages studied in the GE and in various cortical zones, from the proliferative ventricular/subventricular zone (VZ/SVZ) to layer I. Gradients of COUP-TFII expression are present in the GE, with peak expression in the CGE, and in the neocortex, from high expression in the temporal and occipital cortex to moderate in the frontal and dorsal cortex. Double immunofluorescence with γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), calretinin, or calbindin, established that subpopulations of interneurons express COUP-TFII. A small fraction of COUP-TFII+ cells are progenitor cells that proliferate in the CGE (3.4 ± 0.3%) and in the cortical VZ/SVZ (1.7 ± 0.1%). In summary, COUP-TFII is expressed in the human fetal forebrain in GABAergic cells, according to its possible role in migration of cortical interneurons. The source of these cells seems to be the CGE and, to a smaller extent, the cortical VZ/SVZ.
caudal ganglionic eminence; fetal cerebral cortex; human cortical progenitors; interneurons
Convoluted cortical folding and neuronal wiring are 2 prominent attributes of the mammalian brain. However, the macroscale intrinsic relationship between these 2 general cross-species attributes, as well as the underlying principles that sculpt the architecture of the cerebral cortex, remains unclear. Here, we show that the axonal fibers connected to gyri are significantly denser than those connected to sulci. In human, chimpanzee, and macaque brains, a dominant fraction of axonal fibers were found to be connected to the gyri. This finding has been replicated in a range of mammalian brains via diffusion tensor imaging and high–angular resolution diffusion imaging. These results may have shed some lights on fundamental mechanisms for development and organization of the cerebral cortex, suggesting that axonal pushing is a mechanism of cortical folding.
cortical folding; diffusion tensor imaging; shape analysis
Early development of the hippocampus, which is essential for spatial memory and learning, is controlled by secreted signaling molecules of the Wnt gene family and by Wnt/β-catenin signaling. Despite its importance, little is known, however, about Wnt-regulated genes during hippocampal development. Here, we used the Gli3 mutant mouse extra-toes (XtJ), in which Wnt gene expression in the forebrain is severely affected, as a tool in a microarray analyses to identify potential Wnt target genes. This approach revealed 53 candidate genes with restricted or graded expression patterns in the dorsomedial telencephalon. We identified conserved Tcf/Lef-binding sites in telencephalon-specific enhancers of several of these genes, including Dmrt3, Gli3, Nfia, and Wnt8b. Binding of Lef1 to these sites was confirmed using electrophoretic mobility shift assays. Mutations in these Tcf/Lef-binding sites disrupted or reduced enhancer activity in vivo. Moreover, ectopic activation of Wnt/β-catenin signaling in an ex vivo explant system led to increased telencephalic expression of these genes. Finally, conditional inactivation of Gli3 results in defective hippocampal growth. Collectively, these data strongly suggest that we have identified a set of direct Wnt target genes in the developing hippocampus and provide inside into the genetic hierarchy underlying Wnt-regulated hippocampal development.
Dmrt3; Gli3; hippocampus; Wnt signal; ing; Wnt8b
Very little is known about cortical development in the first years of life, a time of rapid cognitive development and risk for neurodevelopmental disorders. We studied regional cortical and subcortical gray matter volume growth in a group of 72 children who underwent magnetic resonance scanning after birth and at ages 1 and 2 years using a novel longitudinal registration/parcellation approach. Overall, cortical gray matter volumes increased substantially (106%) in the first year of life and less so in the second year (18%). We found marked regional differences in developmental rates, with primary motor and sensory cortices growing slower in the first year of life with association cortices growing more rapidly. In the second year of life, primary sensory regions continued to grow more slowly, while frontal and parietal regions developed relatively more quickly. The hippocampus grew less than other subcortical structures such as the amygdala and thalamus in the first year of life. It is likely that these patterns of regional gray matter growth reflect maturation and development of underlying function, as they are consistent with cognitive and functional development in the first years of life.
amygdala; cerebral cortex; hippocampus; lateral ventricle; magnetic resonace imaging
During neuropathic pain, caspases are activated in the limbic cortex. We investigated the role of TRPV1 channels and glial caspases in the mouse prelimbic and infralimbic (PL-IL) cortex after spared nerve injury (SNI). Reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction, western blots, and immunfluorescence showed overexpression of several caspases in the PL-IL cortex 7 days postinjury. Caspase-3 release and upregulation of AMPA receptors in microglia, caspase-1 and IL-1β release in astrocytes, and upregulation of Il-1 receptor-1, TRPV1, and VGluT1 in glutamatergic neurons, were also observed. Of these alterations, only those in astrocytes persisted in SNI Trpv1−/− mice. A pan-caspase inhibitor, injected into the PL-IL cortex, reduced mechanical allodynia, this effect being reduced but not abolished in Trpv1−/− mice. Single-unit extracellular recordings in vivo following electrical stimulation of basolateral amygdala or application of pressure on the hind paw, showed increased excitatory pyramidal neuron activity in the SNI PL-IL cortex, which also contained higher levels of the endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol. Intra-PL-IL cortex injection of mGluR5 and NMDA receptor antagonists and AMPA exacerbated, whereas TRPV1 and AMPA receptor antagonists and a CB1 agonist inhibited, allodynia. We suggest that SNI triggers both TRPV1-dependent and independent glutamate- and caspase-mediated cross-talk among IL-PL cortex neurons and glia, which either participates or counteracts pain.
CB1; endocannabinoid; FAAH; neuropathic pain; TRPV1
Studies of cognitive and neural aging have recently provided evidence of a shift from an early- to late-onset cognitive control strategy, linked with temporally extended activity in the prefrontal cortex (PFC). It has been uncertain, however, whether this age-related shift is unique to PFC and executive control tasks or whether the functional location might vary depending on the particular cognitive processes that are altered. The present study tested whether an early-to-late shift in aging (ELSA) might emerge in the medial temporal lobes (MTL) during a protracted context memory task comprising both anticipatory cue (retrieval preparation) and retrieval probe (retrieval completion) phases. First, we found reduced MTL activity in older adults during the early retrieval preparation phase coupled with increased MTL activity during the late retrieval completion phase. Second, we found that functional connectivity between MTL and PFC regions was higher during retrieval preparation in young adults but higher during retrieval completion in older adults, suggesting an important interactive relationship between the ELSA pattern in MTL and PFC. Taken together, these results critically suggest that aging results in temporally lagged activity even in regions not typically associated with cognitive control, such as the MTL.
episodic memory; fMRI; medial temporal lobe; older adults; retrieval preparation
This study examined the role of orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) plasticity in controlling implicit and explicit social biases. Normal controls and patients with varied OFC and DLPFC lesion size and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) gene, which promotes (methionine–valine [Met/Val] SNP) or stifles (valine–valine [Val/Val] SNP) plasticity in damaged PFC regions, completed measures of implicit and explicit social bias. Patients and controls demonstrated comparable levels of implicit bias, but patients with Met/Val SNPs exhibited less implicit bias when they had smaller OFC lesions compared with Val/Val patients with similar size lesions and those with large OFC lesions. Both patients and controls demonstrated patterns of explicit bias consistent with hypotheses. Patients with Met/Val SNPs exhibited less explicit bias when they had smaller DLPFC lesions sizes compared with Val/Val patients with similar size lesions and those with large DLPFC lesions. OFC lesion size and BDNF SNP type did not moderate explicit bias; DLPFC lesion size and BDNF SNP type did not moderate implicit bias (nor did other medial or lateral regions). Findings suggest that plasticity within specific PFC regions modulates the type and degree of social bias that individuals’ exhibit.
BDNF; implicit and explicit bias; PFC plasticity; social neuroscience; TBI
During encoding, the distributed neocortical representations of memory components are presumed to be associatively linked by the hippocampus. With time, a reorganization of brain areas supporting memory takes place, which can ultimately result in memories becoming independent of the hippocampus. While it is theorized that with time, the neocortical representations become linked by higher order neocortical association areas, this remains to be experimentally supported. In this study, 24 human participants encoded sets of face–location associations, which they retrieved 1 or 25 h later (“recent” and “remote” conditions, respectively), while their brain activity was recorded using whole-head magnetoencephalography. We investigated changes in the functional interactions between the neocortical representational areas emerging over time. To assess functional interactions, trial-by-trial high gamma (60–140 Hz) power correlations were calculated between the neocortical representational areas relevant to the encoded information, namely the fusiform face area (FFA) and posterior parietal cortex (PPC). With time, both the FFA and the PPC increased their functional interactions with the anterior temporal lobe (ATL). Given that the ATL is involved in semantic representation of paired associates, our results suggest that, already within 25 h after acquiring new memory associations, neocortical functional links are established via higher order semantic association areas.
connectivity; EEG; gamma; MEG; memory consolidation
We investigated age-related changes in default, attention, and control network activity and their interactions in young and old adults. Brain activity during autobiographical and visuospatial planning was assessed using multivariate analysis and with intrinsic connectivity networks as regions of interest. In both groups, autobiographical planning engaged the default network while visuospatial planning engaged the attention network, consistent with a competition between the domains of internalized and externalized cognition. The control network was engaged for both planning tasks. In young subjects, the control network coupled with the default network during autobiographical planning and with the attention network during visuospatial planning. In old subjects, default-to-control network coupling was observed during both planning tasks, and old adults failed to deactivate the default network during visuospatial planning. This failure is not indicative of default network dysfunction per se, evidenced by default network engagement during autobiographical planning. Rather, a failure to modulate the default network in old adults is indicative of a lower degree of flexible network interactivity and reduced dynamic range of network modulation to changing task demands.
aging; attention; autobiographical; control; planning
Late-onset Alzheimer's disease (AD) is 50–70% heritable with complex genetic underpinnings. In addition to Apoliprotein E (APOE) ε4, the major genetic risk factor, recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified a growing list of sequence variations associated with the disease. Building on a prior large-scale AD GWAS, we used a recently developed analytic method to compute a polygenic score that involves up to 26 independent common sequence variants and is associated with AD dementia, above and beyond APOE. We then examined the associations between the polygenic score and the magnetic resonance imaging–derived thickness measurements across AD-vulnerable cortex in clinically normal (CN) human subjects (N = 104). AD-specific cortical thickness was correlated with the polygenic risk score, even after controlling for APOE genotype and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) levels of β-amyloid (Aβ1–42). Furthermore, the association remained significant in CN subjects with levels of CSF Aβ1–42 in the normal range and in APOE ε3 homozygotes. The observation that genetic risk variants are associated with thickness across AD-vulnerable regions of interest in CN older individuals, suggests that the combination of polygenic risk profile, neuroimaging, and CSF biomarkers may hold synergistic potential to aid in the prediction of future cognitive decline.
Alzheimer's disease; imaging genetics; polygenic score
Bimanual actions involve coordinated motion but often rely on the movements performed with each hand to be different. Older adults exhibit differentially greater variability for bimanual actions in which each hand has an independent movement goal. Such actions rely on interhemispheric communication via the corpus callosum, including both facilitatory and inhibitory interactions. Here, we investigated whether age differences in callosal structure and interhemispheric function contribute to this selective movement difficulty. Participants performed 3 force production tasks: 1) unimanual, 2) bimanual simultaneous, and 3) bimanual independent. Older adults had significantly greater interhemispheric facilitation during voluntary muscle activation. We also report a fundamental shift with age in the relationship between callosal tract microstructural integrity and interhemispheric inhibition (IHI). Specifically, older adults with relatively greater callosal tract microstructural integrity have less IHI. Furthermore, greater IHI was related to poorer bimanual performance (assessed by dominant hand force variability) in older adults on all tasks, whereas this relationship was only observed in young adults for the bimanual independent condition. These findings indicate changes in interhemispheric communication with advancing age such that older adults may rely on bilateral cortical cooperation to a greater extent than young adults for manual actions.
aging; bimanual; corpus callosum; diffusion tensor imaging; transcranial magnetic stimulation
The most dramatic growth of the human brain occurs in utero and during the first 2 years of postnatal life. Genesis of the cerebral cortex involves cell proliferation, migration, and apoptosis, all of which may be influenced by prenatal environment. Here, we show that variation in KCTD8 (potassium channel tetramerization domain 8) is associated with brain size in female adolescents (rs716890, P = 5.40 × 10−09). Furthermore, we found that the KCTD8 locus interacts with prenatal exposure to maternal cigarette smoking vis-à-vis cortical area and cortical folding: In exposed girls only, the KCTD8 locus explains up to 21% of variance. Using head circumference as a proxy of brain size at 7 years of age, we have replicated this gene–environment interaction in an independent sample. We speculate that KCTD8 might modulate adverse effects of smoking during pregnancy on brain development via apoptosis triggered by low intracellular levels of potassium, possibly reducing the number of progenitor cells.
adolescence; brain; GWAS; pregnancy
We report on surface-based analyses that enhance our understanding of human cortical organization, including its convolutions and its parcellation into many distinct areas. The surface area of human neocortex averages 973 cm2 per hemisphere, based on cortical midthickness surfaces of 2 cohorts of subjects. We implemented a method to register individual subjects to a hybrid version of the FreeSurfer “fsaverage” atlas whose left and right hemispheres are in precise geographic correspondence. Cortical folding patterns in the resultant population-average “fs_LR” midthickness surfaces are remarkably similar in the left and right hemispheres, even in regions showing significant asymmetry in 3D position. Both hemispheres are equal in average surface area, but hotspots of surface area asymmetry are present in the Sylvian Fissure and elsewhere, together with a broad pattern of asymmetries that are significant though small in magnitude. Multiple cortical parcellation schemes registered to the human atlas provide valuable reference data sets for comparisons with other studies. Identified cortical areas vary in size by more than 2 orders of magnitude. The total number of human neocortical areas is estimated to be ∼150 to 200 areas per hemisphere, which is modestly larger than a recent estimate for the macaque.
architectonic; areas; maps; registration; retinotopy
Clouds and inkblots often compellingly resemble something else—faces, animals, or other identifiable objects. Here, we investigated illusions of meaning produced by novel visual shapes. Individuals found some shapes meaningful and others meaningless, with considerable variability among individuals in these subjective categorizations. Repetition for shapes endorsed as meaningful produced conceptual priming in a priming test along with concurrent activity reductions in cortical regions associated with conceptual processing of real objects. Subjectively meaningless shapes elicited robust activity in the same brain areas, but activity was not influenced by repetition. Thus, all shapes were conceptually evaluated, but stable conceptual representations supported neural priming for meaningful shapes only. During a recognition memory test, performance was associated with increased frontoparietal activity, regardless of meaningfulness. In contrast, neural conceptual priming effects for meaningful shapes occurred during both priming and recognition testing. These different patterns of brain activation as a function of stimulus repetition, type of memory test, and subjective meaningfulness underscore the distinctive neural bases of conceptual fluency versus episodic memory retrieval. Finding meaning in ambiguous stimuli appears to depend on conceptual evaluation and cortical processing events similar to those typically observed for known objects. To the brain, the vaguely Elvis-like potato chip truly can provide a substitute for the King himself.
conceptual priming; explicit memory; perceptual learning; perceptual recognition; semantic priming
Some of the most striking symptoms after prefrontal damage are reduction of behavioral initiation and inability to suppress automatic behaviors. However, the relation between these 2 symptoms and the location of the lesions that cause them are not well understood. This study investigates the cerebral correlates of initiation and suppression abilities assessed by the Hayling Sentence Completion Test, using the human lesion approach. Forty-five patients with focal brain lesions and 110 healthy matched controls were examined. We combined a classical group approach with 2 voxel-based lesion methods. The results show several critical prefrontal regions to Hayling Test performance, associated with either common or differential impairment in “initiation” and “suppression” conditions. A crucial role for medial rostral prefrontal cortex (BA 10) in the initiation condition was shown by both group and lesion-mapping methods. A posterior inferolateral lesion provoked both initiation and suppression slowness, although to different degrees. An orbitoventral region was associated with errors in the suppression condition. These findings are important for clinical practice since they indicate that the brain regions required to perform a widely used and sensitive neuropsychological test but also shed light on the regions crucial for distinct components of adaptative behaviors, in particular, rostral prefrontal cortex.
behavior; human; lesion study; neuropsychology; rostral prefrontal
Surface-based atlases provide a valuable way to analyze and visualize the functional organization of cerebral cortex. Surface-based registration (SBR) is a primary method for aligning individual hemispheres to a surface-based atlas. We used landmark-constrained SBR to register many published parcellation schemes to the macaque F99 surface-based atlas. This enables objective comparison of both similarities and differences across parcellations. Cortical areas in the macaque vary in surface area by more than 2 orders of magnitude. Based on a composite parcellation derived from 3 major sources, the total number of macaque neocortical and transitional cortical areas is estimated to be about 130–140 in each hemisphere.
architectonic; areas; maps; registration; retinotopy
Human cerebral cortex develops extremely fast in the first year of life. Quantitative measurement of cortical development during this early stage plays an important role in revealing the relationship between cortical structural and high-level functional development. This paper presents a computational growth model to simulate the dynamic development of the cerebral cortex from birth to 1 year old by modeling the cerebral cortex as a deformable elastoplasticity surface driven via a growth model. To achieve a high accuracy, a guidance model is also incorporated to estimate the growth parameters and cortical shapes at later developmental stages. The proposed growth model has been applied to 10 healthy subjects with longitudinal brain MR images acquired at every 3 months from birth to 1 year old. The experimental results show that our proposed method can capture the dynamic developmental process of the cortex, with the average surface distance error smaller than 0.6 mm compared with the ground truth surfaces, and the results also show that 1) the curvedness and sharpness decrease from 2 weeks to 12 months and 2) the frontal lobe shows rapidly increasing cortical folding during this period, with relatively slower increase of the cortical folding in the occipital and parietal lobes.
cortical development simulation; cortical surface; growth model
Despite extraordinary diversity in the rodent order, studies of motor cortex have been limited to only 2 species, rats and mice. Here, we examine the topographic organization of motor cortex in the Eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) and cortical connections of motor cortex in the California ground squirrel (Spermophilus beecheyi). We distinguish a primary motor area, M1, based on intracortical microstimulation (ICMS), myeloarchitecture, and patterns of connectivity. A sensorimotor area between M1 and the primary somatosensory area, S1, was also distinguished based on connections, functional organization, and myeloarchitecture. We term this field 3a based on similarities with area 3a in nonrodent mammals. Movements are evoked with ICMS in both M1 and 3a in a roughly somatotopic pattern. Connections of 3a and M1 are distinct and suggest the presence of a third far rostral field, termed “F,” possibly involved in motor processing based on its connections. We hypothesize that 3a is homologous to the dysgranular zone (DZ) in S1 of rats and mice. Our results demonstrate that squirrels have both similar and unique features of M1 organization compared with those described in rats and mice, and that changes in 3a/DZ borders appear to have occurred in both lineages.
evolution; M1; primate; rodent; 3a
Background: During adolescence, numerous factors influence the organization of the brain. It is unclear what influence sex and puberty have on white matter microstructure, as well as the role that rapidly increasing sex steroids play. Methods: White matter microstructure was examined in 77 adolescents (ages 10–16) using diffusion tensor imaging. Multiple regression analyses were performed to examine the relationships between fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD) and sex, puberty, and their interaction, controlling for age. Follow-up analyses determined if sex steroids predicted microstructural characteristics in sexually dimorphic and pubertal-related white matter regions, as well as in whole brain. Results: Boys had higher FA in white matter carrying corticospinal, long-range association, and cortico-subcortical fibers, and lower MD in frontal and temporal white matter compared with girls. Pubertal development was related to higher FA in the insula, while a significant sex-by-puberty interaction was seen in superior frontal white matter. In boys, testosterone predicted white matter integrity in sexually dimorphic regions as well as whole brain FA, whereas estradiol showed a negative relationship with FA in girls. Conclusions: Sex differences and puberty uniquely relate to white matter microstructure in adolescents, which can partially be explained by sex steroids.
adolescence; diffusion tensor imaging; estradiol; puberty; testosterone
Famous people and artifacts are referred to as “unique entities” (UEs) due to the unique nature of the knowledge we have about them. Past imaging and lesion experiments have indicated that the anterior temporal lobes (ATLs) as having a special role in the processing of UEs. It has remained unclear which attributes of UEs were responsible for the observed effects in imaging experiments. In this study, we investigated what factors of UEs influence brain activity. In a training paradigm, we systematically varied the uniqueness of semantic associations, the presence/absence of a proper name, and the number of semantic associations to determine factors modulating activity in regions subserving the processing of UEs. We found that a conjunction of unique semantic information and proper names modulated activity within a section of the left ATL. Overall, the processing of UEs involved a wider left-hemispheric cortical network. Within these regions, brain activity was significantly affected by the unique semantic attributes especially in the presence of a proper name, but we could not find evidence for an effect of the number of semantic associations. Findings are discussed in regard to current models of ATL function, the neurophysiology of semantics, and social cognitive processing.
anterior temporal lobe; concepts; face perception; semantic memory; social neuroscience