Role of the posterior temporal lobe during language tasks: a virtual lesion study using repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation

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Functional brain imaging studies have suggested that the superior temporal gyrus (STG) and the middle temporal gyrus (MTG) are involved in phonological and lexical–semantic processing, respectively. However, the precise role of the posterior temporal lobe is not fully understood. To clarify the functional relevance of the left posterior STG and MTG during language processing, we used neuronavigation-guided repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). The reaction times and error rates for 12 healthy volunteers performing auditory repetition and lexical–semantic decision tasks were compared before and during rTMS stimulation. We applied 1 Hz rTMS over the left posterior STG or MTG or sham stimulation for 10 min in a random order. Stimulation of the left posterior MTG significantly slowed the response time for the lexical–semantic decision task from 478.9±56.5 to 583.1±80.0 ms. However, stimulation over the left posterior STG or MTG did not affect the response time or the error rate for the auditory repetition task. Our results suggest that the left posterior MTG might be involved in lexical decision making. Neuronavigation-guided rTMS virtual lesion studies could help determine the functional roles of specific brain areas in language processing, and our findings provide new evidence supporting the use of neuromodulation through rTMS for patients with aphasia.

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