A comparison of rCBF patterns during letter and semantic fluency

Neuropsychology. 2000 Jul;14(3):353-60. doi: 10.1037//0894-4105.14.3.353.


To evaluate the functional neuroanatomies underlying letter and category fluency, 18 normal controls were studied with oxygen-15 water regional cerebral blood flow positron emission tomography. Three counterbalanced conditions each consisted of 6 trials (45 s each): letter fluency (generating words when cued with a particular letter), semantic fluency (generating words when cued with a particular category), and a control condition (generating days of the week and months of the year). Relative to the control, participants activated similar brain regions during both fluency tasks, including the anterior cingulate, left prefrontal regions, thalamus, and cerebellum; reductions were found in parietal and temporal regions. In a direct comparison of the 2 fluency tasks, inferior frontal cortex and temporoparietal cortex (hypothesized to participate in a phonologic loop for accessing word pronunciation) were activated more during letter than semantic fluency, whereas left temporal cortex (associated with access to semantic storage) was activated more during semantic than letter fluency. This study identifies subtle differences in the neural networks underlying letter and semantic fluency that may underlie the dissociation of these abilities in patients.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen Isotopes
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reading*
  • Speech / physiology*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed


  • Oxygen Isotopes