Semantic association, an essential element of human language, enables discourse and inference. Neuroimaging studies have revealed localization and lateralization of semantic circuitry, making substantial contributions to cognitive neuroscience. However, because of methodological limitations, these investigations have only identified individual functional components rather than capturing the behavior of the entire network. To overcome these limitations, we have implemented group independent component analysis (ICA) to investigate the cognitive modules used by healthy adults performing the fMRI semantic decision task. When compared with the results of a standard general linear modeling (GLM) analysis, ICA detected several additional brain regions subserving semantic decision. Eight task-related group ICA maps were identified, including left inferior frontal gyrus (BA44/45), middle posterior temporal gyrus (BA39/22), angular gyrus/inferior parietal lobule (BA39/40), posterior cingulate (BA30), bilateral lingual gyrus (BA18/23), inferior frontal gyrus (L>R, BA47), hippocampus with parahippocampal gyrus (L>R, BA35/36), and anterior cingulate (BA32/24). Although most of the components were represented bilaterally, we found a single, highly left-lateralized component that included the inferior frontal gyrus and the medial and superior temporal gyri, the angular and supramarginal gyri, and the inferior parietal cortex. The presence of these spatially independent ICA components implies functional connectivity and can be equated with their modularity. These results are analyzed and presented in the framework of a biologically plausible theoretical model in preparation for similar analyses in patients with right- or left-hemispheric epilepsies.
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