A dual architecture for the cognitive control of language: Evidence from functional imaging and language production

Neuroimage. 2019 May 15:192:26-37. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.02.043. Epub 2019 Mar 1.


The relation between language processing and the cognitive control of thought and action is a widely debated issue in cognitive neuroscience. While recent research suggests a modular separation between a 'language system' for meaningful linguistic processing and a 'multiple-demand system' for cognitive control, other findings point to more integrated perspectives in which controlled language processing emerges from a division of labor between (parts of) the language system and (parts of) the multiple-demand system. We test here a dual approach to the cognitive control of language predicated on the notion of cognitive control as the combined contribution of a semantic control network (SCN) and a working memory network (WMN) supporting top-down manipulation of (lexico-)semantic information and the monitoring of information in verbal working memory, respectively. We reveal these networks in a large-scale coordinate-based meta-analysis contrasting functional imaging studies of verbal working memory vs. active judgments on (lexico-)semantic information and show the extent of their overlap with the multiple-demand system and the language system. Testing these networks' involvement in a functional imaging study of object naming and verb generation, we then show that SCN specializes in top-down retrieval and selection of (lexico-)semantic representations amongst competing alternatives, while WMN intervenes at a more general level of control modulated in part by the amount of competing responses available for selection. These results have implications in conceptualizing the neurocognitive architecture of language and cognitive control.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Functional Neuroimaging
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Speech / physiology*