Parcellation-based anatomic model of the semantic network

Brain Behav. 2021 Apr;11(4):e02065. doi: 10.1002/brb3.2065. Epub 2021 Feb 18.


Introduction: The semantic network is an important mediator of language, enabling both speech production and the comprehension of multimodal stimuli. A major challenge in the field of neurosurgery is preventing semantic deficits. Multiple cortical areas have been linked to semantic processing, though knowledge of network connectivity has lacked anatomic specificity. Using attentional task-based fMRI studies, we built a neuroanatomical model of this network.

Methods: One hundred and fifty-five task-based fMRI studies related to categorization of visual words and objects, and auditory words and stories were used to generate an activation likelihood estimation (ALE). Cortical parcellations overlapping the ALE were used to construct a preliminary model of the semantic network based on the cortical parcellation scheme previously published under the Human Connectome Project. Deterministic fiber tractography was performed on 25 randomly chosen subjects from the Human Connectome Project, to determine the connectivity of the cortical parcellations comprising the network.

Results: The ALE analysis demonstrated fourteen left hemisphere cortical regions to be a part of the semantic network: 44, 45, 55b, IFJa, 8C, p32pr, SFL, SCEF, 8BM, STSdp, STSvp, TE1p, PHT, and PBelt. These regions showed consistent interconnections between parcellations. Notably, the anterior temporal pole, a region often implicated in semantic function, was absent from our model.

Conclusions: We describe a preliminary cortical model for the underlying structural connectivity of the semantic network. Future studies will further characterize the neurotractographic details of the semantic network in the context of medical application.

Keywords: dual stream; language network; parcellation; tractography.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping
  • Connectome*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Models, Anatomic
  • Semantic Web*
  • Semantics
  • Speech