Is the semantic category effect in the lateral temporal cortex due to motion property differences?

Neuroimage. 2011 Apr 15;55(4):1853-64. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.01.039. Epub 2011 Jan 20.


Two specific areas within the posterior lateral temporal cortex (PLTC), the posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS) and the posterior middle temporal gyrus (pMTG), have been proposed to store different types of conceptual properties of motion: the pSTS encodes knowledge of articulated, biological motion, and the pMTG encodes knowledge about unarticulated, mechanical motion. We examined this hypothesis by comparing activation patterns evoked by verbs denoting biological motion (e.g., walk), mechanical motion (e.g., rotate), and low-motion events (e.g., ferment). Classical noun categories with different motion types (animals, tools, and buildings) were also tested and compared with previous findings of the categorical effects in PLTC. Replicating previous findings of different types of nouns, we observed stronger activation for animals than tools in the pSTS and stronger activation for tools compared to other types of nouns in the pMTG. However, such motion-type specific activation patterns only partly extended to verbs. Whereas the pSTS showed preferences for biological-motion verbs, no region within the pMTG was sensitive to verbs denoting mechanical motion. We speculate that the pMTG preference for tools is driven by properties other than mechanical motion, such as strong mappings between the visual form and motor-related representations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judgment / physiology*
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Semantics*
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*