Category-specific neural processing for naming pictures of animals and naming pictures of tools: an ALE meta-analysis

Neuropsychologia. 2010 Jan;48(2):409-18. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2009.09.032. Epub 2009 Oct 1.


Using activation-likelihood estimation (ALE) meta-analysis, we identified brain areas that are invoked when people name pictures of animals and pictures of tools. We found that naming animals and naming tools invoked separate distributed networks in the brain. Specifically, we found that naming animals invoked greater responses than naming tools in frontal lobe structures that are typically modulated by emotional content and task demands, and in a number of visual areas in the ventral stream. In contrast, naming tools invoked greater responses in a different set of areas in the ventral stream than those invoked by naming animals. Naming tools also invoked greater responses than naming animals in motor areas in the frontal lobe as well as in sensory areas in the parietal lobe. The only overlapping sites of activation that we found for naming these two categories of objects were in the left pars triangularis, the left inferior temporal gyrus, and the left parahippocampal gyrus. Taken together, our meta-analysis reveals that animals and tools are categorically represented in visual areas but show convergence in higher-order associative areas in the temporal and frontal lobes in regions that are typically regarded as being involved in memory and/or semantic processing. Our results also reveal that naming tools not only engages visual areas in the ventral stream but also a fronto-parietal network associated with tool use. Whether or not this network associated with tool use contributes directly to recognition will require further investigation.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Names*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods
  • Visual Pathways / diagnostic imaging
  • Visual Pathways / physiology