Naming with proper names: The left temporal pole theory

Carlo Semenza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Existing empirical data on proper names processing are critically reviewed in trying to understand which tasks may involve the left temporal pole, which proper name related functions are supported by this structure and eventually offer some speculations about why these functions might have developed in this location in the course of human evolution. While clinical group studies support the idea that proper name processing takes place in the left temporal pole, single case studies of selective proper name anomia or sparing, as well as neuroimaging studies, suggest the involvement of a larger neural network. Within this network, an important role may be played by the ventro-medial prefrontal cortex, including areas critical in social interaction. The differentiation in the brain of proper name processing from common names processing could in part be due to social pressure, favouring a neural system able to more efficiently and unambiguously sustain designating categories or designating individual entities. The activation of the left temporal pole in proper name processing is shown to increase with age. Longer social interaction may thus contribute to convey proper names processing toward areas closer to those supporting social cognition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-284
Number of pages8
JournalBehavioural Neurology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • anomia
  • left temporal pole
  • Proper names
  • social cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology


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