Cognitive and Anatomical Underpinnings of the Conceptual Knowledge for Common Objects and Familiar People: A Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Study

Fabio Campanella, Franco Fabbro, Cosimo Urgesi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Several studies have addressed the issue of how knowledge of common objects is organized in the brain, whereas the cognitive and anatomical underpinnings of familiar people knowledge have been less explored. Here we applied repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) over the left and right temporal poles before asking healthy individuals to perform a speeded word-to-picture matching task using familiar people and common objects as stimuli. We manipulated two widely used semantic variables, namely the semantic distance and the familiarity of stimuli, to assess whether the semantic organization of familiar people knowledge is similar to that of common objects. For both objects and faces we reliably found semantic distance and familiarity effects, with less accurate and slower responses for stimulus pairs that were more closely related and less familiar. However, the effects of semantic variables differed across categories, with semantic distance effects larger for objects and familiarity effects larger for faces, suggesting that objects and faces might share a partially comparable organization of their semantic representations. The application of rTMS to the left temporal pole modulated, for both categories, semantic distance, but not familiarity effects, revealing that accessing object and face concepts might rely on overlapping processes within left anterior temporal regions. Crucially, rTMS of the left temporal pole affected only the recognition of pairs of stimuli that could be discriminated at specific levels of categorization (e.g., two kitchen tools or two famous persons), with no effect for discriminations at either superordinate or individual levels. Conversely, rTMS of the right temporal pole induced an overall slowing of reaction times that positively correlated with the visual similarity of the stimuli, suggesting a more perceptual rather than semantic role of the right anterior temporal regions. Results are discussed in the light of current models of face and object semantic representations in the brain.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere64596
JournalPLoS One
Volume8
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 21 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)

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