The organization and dissolution of semantic-conceptual knowledge: is the 'amodal hub' the only plausible model?

Brain Cogn. 2011 Apr;75(3):299-309. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2010.12.001. Epub 2011 Jan 5.


In recent years, the anatomical and functional bases of conceptual activity have attracted a growing interest. In particular, Patterson and Lambon-Ralph have proposed the existence, in the anterior parts of the temporal lobes, of a mechanism (the 'amodal semantic hub') supporting the interactive activation of semantic representations in all modalities and for all semantic categories. The aim of then present paper is to discuss this model, arguing against the notion of an 'amodal' semantic hub, because we maintain, in agreement with the Damasio's construct of 'higher-order convergence zone', that a continuum exists between perceptual information and conceptual representations, whereas the 'amodal' account views perceptual informations only as a channel through which abstract semantic knowledge can be activated. According to our model, semantic organization can be better explained by two orthogonal higher-order convergence systems, concerning, on one hand, the right vs. left hemisphere and, on the other hand, the ventral vs. dorsal processing pathways. This model posits that conceptual representations may be mainly based upon perceptual activities in the right hemisphere and upon verbal mediation in the left side of the brain. It also assumes that conceptual knowledge based on the convergence of highly processed visual information with other perceptual data (and mainly concerning living categories) may be bilaterally represented in the anterior parts of the temporal lobes, whereas knowledge based on the integration of visual data with action schemata (namely knowledge of actions, body parts and artefacts) may be more represented in the left fronto-temporo-parietal areas.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Humans
  • Knowledge*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Semantics