Distinguishable neurofunctional effects of task practice and item practice in picture naming: A BOLD fMRI study in healthy subjects

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Practice of language tasks results in improved performance and BOLD signal changes. We distinguish changes correlated with repeated exposure to a picture naming task, from changes associated with naming specific items trained during practice.

Task practice affected trained and untrained items, yielding left-sided BOLD deactivations in extrastriate, prefrontal and superior temporal areas (consistent with their putative role in perceptual priming, articulatory planning and phonological lexical retrieval, respectively). Item practice effects were restricted to trained words. There was deactivation in left posterior fusiform (supporting its role in accessing structural object representations), anterior cingulate and left insular/inferior frontal cortices (consistent with their role in processing low-frequency words). Central precuneus and posterior cingulate were hyperactivated (consistent with their putative role in episodic memory for trained items, probably due to functional connections with language areas). In healthy subjects, naming practice modifies stored linguistic representations, but mostly affects ease of access to trained words.

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