Brain regions that represent amodal conceptual knowledge

J Neurosci. 2013 Jun 19;33(25):10552-8. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0051-13.2013.


To what extent do the brain regions implicated in semantic processing contribute to the representation of amodal conceptual content rather than modality-specific mechanisms or mechanisms of semantic access and manipulation? Here, we propose that a brain region can be considered to represent amodal conceptual object knowledge if it is supramodal and plays a role in distinguishing among the conceptual representations of different objects. In an fMRI study, human participants made category typicality judgments about pictured objects or their names drawn from five different categories. Crossmodal multivariate pattern analysis revealed a network of six left-lateralized regions largely outside of category-selective visual cortex that showed a supramodal representation of object categories. These were located in the posterior middle/inferior temporal gyrus (pMTG/ITG), angular gyrus, ventral temporal cortex, posterior cingulate/precuneus (PC), and lateral and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex. Representational similarity analysis within these regions determined that the similarity between category-specific patterns of neural activity in the pMTG/ITG and the PC was consistent with the semantic similarity between these categories. This finding supports the PC and pMTG/ITG as candidate regions for the amodal representation of the conceptual properties of objects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Judgment / physiology
  • Knowledge*
  • Linear Models
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Semantics
  • Young Adult