Anterior temporal involvement in semantic word retrieval: Voxel-based lesion-symptom mapping evidence from aphasia

Myrna F. Schwartz, Daniel Y. Kimberg, Grant M. Walker, Olufunsho Faseyitan, Adelyn Brecher, Gary S. Dell, H. Branch Coslett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Analysis of error types provides useful information about the stages and processes involved in normal and aphasic word production. In picture naming, semantic errors (horse for goat) generally result from something having gone awry in lexical access such that the right concept was mapped to the wrong word. This study used the new lesion analysis technique known as voxel-based lesion-symptom mapping to investigate the locus of lesions that give rise to semantic naming errors. Semantic errors were obtained from 64 individuals with post-stroke aphasia, who also underwent high-resolution structural brain scans. Whole brain voxel-based lesion-symptom mapping was carried out to determine where lesion status predicted semantic error rate. The strongest associations were found in the left anterior to mid middle temporal gyrus. This area also showed strong and significant effects in further analyses that statistically controlled for deficits in pre-lexical, conceptualization processes that might have contributed to semantic error production. This study is the first to demonstrate a specific and necessary role for the left anterior temporal lobe in mapping concepts to words in production. We hypothesize that this role consists in the conveyance of fine-grained semantic distinctions to the lexical system. Our results line up with evidence from semantic dementia, the convergence zone framework and meta-analyses of neuroimaging studies on word production. At the same time, they cast doubt on the classical linkage of semantic error production to lesions in and around Wernicke's area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3411-3427
Number of pages17
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2009


  • Aphasia
  • Errors
  • Naming
  • Semantic
  • Voxel-based lesion-symptom mapping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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