Task-based activation and resting-state connectivity predict individual differences in semantic capacity for complex semantic knowledge

Commun Biol. 2023 Oct 9;6(1):1020. doi: 10.1038/s42003-023-05400-1.


Our ability to know and access complex factual information has far reaching effects, influencing our scholastic, professional and social lives. Here we employ functional MRI to assess the relationship between individual differences in semantic aptitude in the task-based activation and resting-state functional connectivity. Using psychometric and behavioural measures, we quantified the semantic and executive aptitude of individuals and had them perform a general-knowledge semantic-retrieval task (N = 41) and recorded resting-state data (N = 43). During the semantic-retrieval task, participants accessed general-knowledge facts drawn from four different knowledge-domains (people, places, objects and 'scholastic'). Individuals with greater executive capacity more strongly recruit anterior sections of prefrontal cortex (PFC) and the precuneus, and individuals with lower semantic capacity more strongly activate a posterior section of the dorsomedial PFC (dmPFC). The role of these regions in semantic processing was validated by analysis of independent resting-state data, where increased connectivity between a left anterior PFC and the precuneus predict higher semantic aptitude, and increased connectivity between left anterior PFC and posterior dmPFC predict lower semantic aptitude. Results suggest that coordination between core semantic regions in the precuneus and anterior prefrontal regions associated with executive processes support greater semantic aptitude.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Individuality*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Parietal Lobe / diagnostic imaging
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology
  • Semantics*