Along with meaning and form, words can be described on the basis of their grammatical properties. Grammatical gender is often used to investigate the latter as it is a grammatical property that is independent of meaning. The left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) has been implicated in the encoding of grammatical gender, but its causal role in this process in neurologically normal observers has not been demonstrated. Here we combined verbal satiation with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to demonstrate that subpopulations of neurons within Broca's area respond preferentially to different classes of grammatical gender. Subjects were asked to classify Italian nouns into living and nonliving categories; half of these words were of masculine and the other half of feminine grammatical gender. Prior to each test block, a satiation paradigm (a phenomenon in which verbal repetition of a category name leads to a reduced access to that category) was used to modulate the initial state of the representations of either masculine or feminine noun categories. In the No TMS condition, subjects were slower in responding to exemplars to the satiated category relative to exemplars of the nonsatiated category, implying that the neural representations for different classes of grammatical gender are partly dissociable. The application of TMS over Broca's area removed the behavioral impact of verbal (grammatical) satiation, demonstrating the causal role of this region in the encoding of grammatical gender. These results show that the neural representations for different cases of a grammatical property within Broca's area are dissociable.
- Inferior frontal gyrus
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation
- Verbal satiation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cognitive Neuroscience