The role of the left inferior frontal gyrus in implicit semantic competition and selection: An event-related fMRI study

Christopher M. Grindrod, Natalia Y. Bilenko, Emily B. Myers, Sheila E. Blumstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Recent research suggests that the left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG) plays a role in selecting semantic information from among competing alternatives. A key question remains as to whether the LIFG is engaged by the selection of semantic information only or by increased semantic competition in and of itself, especially when such competition is implicit in nature. Ambiguous words presented in a lexical context provide a means of examining whether the LIFG is recruited under conditions when contextual cues constrain selection to only the meaning appropriate to the context (e.g., coin-mint-money) or under conditions of increased competition when contextual cues do not allow for the resolution to a particular meaning (e.g., candy-mint-money). In this event-related fMRI study, an implicit task was used in which subjects made lexical (i.e., word/nonword) decisions on the third stimulus of auditorily presented triplets in conditions where the lexical context either promoted resolution toward a particular ambiguous word meaning or enhanced the competition among ambiguous word meanings. LIFG activation was observed when the context allowed for the resolution of competition and hence the selection of one meaning (e.g., coin-mint-money) but failed to emerge when competition between the meanings of an ambiguous word was unresolved by the context (e.g., candy-mint-money). In the latter case, there was a pattern of reduced activation in frontal, temporal and parietal areas. These findings demonstrate that selection or resolution of competition as opposed to increased semantic competition alone engages the LIFG. Moreover, they extend previous work in showing that the LIFG is recruited even in cases where the selection of meaning takes place implicitly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-178
Number of pages12
JournalBrain Research
Volume1229
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 10 2008
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Left inferior frontal gyrus
  • Left superior temporal gyrus
  • Semantic ambiguity
  • Semantic competition
  • Semantic selection
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology

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