Semantic relevance, domain specificity and the sensory/functional theory of category-specificity

Giuseppe Sartori, Francesca Gnoato, Ilenia Mariani, Sara Prioni, Luigi Lombardi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


According to the sensory/functional theory of semantic memory, Living items rely more on Sensory knowledge than Non-living ones. The sensory/functional explanation of category-specificity assumes that semantic features are organised on the basis of their content. We report here a study on DAT patients with impaired performance on Living items and tests of Sensory knowledge, and show that this impairment not only disappears after parcelling out semantic relevance, but is also reversed if this parameter is appropriately manipulated. Although semantic relevance model predicts these results [Sartori, G., & Lombardi, L. (2004). Semantic relevance and semantic disorders. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 16, 439-452], they run counter to both the sensory/functional theory and the domain-specific theory of category-specific impairment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)966-976
Number of pages11
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • Category-specific impairment
  • Semantic memory
  • Sensory knowledge

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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