Mapping the Multiple Graded Contributions of the Anterior Temporal Lobe Representational Hub to Abstract and Social Concepts: Evidence from Distortion-corrected fMRI

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Abstract

A growing body of recent convergent evidence indicates that the anterior temporal lobe (ATL) has connectivity-derived graded differences in semantic function: the ventrolateral region appears to be the transmodal, omni-category center-point of the hub whilst secondary contributions come from the peripheries of the hub in a manner that reflects their differential connectivity to different input/output modalities. One of the key challenges for this neurocognitive theory is how different types of concept, especially those with less reliance upon external sensory experience (such as abstract and social concepts), are coded across the graded ATL hub. We were able to answer this key question by using distortion-corrected fMRI to detect functional activations across the entire ATL region and thus to map the neural basis of social and psycholinguistically-matched abstract concepts. Both types of concept engaged a core left-hemisphere semantic network, including the ventrolateral ATL, prefrontal regions and posterior MTG. Additionally, we replicated previous findings of weaker differential activation of the superior and polar ATL for the processing of social stimuli, in addition to the stronger, omni-category activation observed in the vATL. These results are compatible with the view of the ATL as a graded transmodal substrate for the representation of coherent concepts.

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