Naming is considered a left hemisphere function that operates according to a posterior-anterior specificity gradient, with more fine-grained information processed in most anterior regions of the temporal lobe (ATL), including the temporal pole (TP). Word finding difficulties are typically assessed using visual confrontation naming tasks, and have been associated with selective damage to ATL resulting from different aetiologies. Nonetheless, the role of the ATL and, more specifically, of the TP in the naming network is not completely established. Most of the accumulated evidence is based on studies on patients with extensive lesions, often bilateral. Furthermore, there is a considerable variability in the anatomical definition of ATL. To better understand the specific involvement of the left TP in visual object naming, we assessed a group of patients with an epileptogenic lesion centered at the TP, and compared their performance with that of a strictly matched control group. We also administered a battery of verbal and non-verbal semantic tasks that was used as a semantic memory baseline. Patients showed an impaired naming ability, manifesting in a certain degree of anomia and semantically related naming errors, which was influenced by concept familiarity. This pattern took place in a context of mild semantic dysfunction that was evident in different types and modalities of semantic tasks. Therefore, current findings demonstrate that a restricted lesion to the left TP can cause a significant deficit in object naming. Of importance, the observed semantic impairment was far from the devastating degradation observed in semantic dementia and other bilateral conditions.
Keywords: Semantic memory; Temporal lobe epilepsy; Temporal pole; Visual object naming.