Fractionating the anterior temporal lobe: MVPA reveals differential responses to input and conceptual modality

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Words activate cortical regions in accordance with their modality of presentation (i.e., written vs. spoken), yet there is a long-standing debate about whether patterns of activity in any specific brain region capture modality-invariant conceptual information. Deficits in patients with semantic dementia highlight the anterior temporal lobe (ATL) as an amodal store of semantic knowledge but these studies do not permit precise localisation of this function. The current investigation used multiple imaging methods in healthy participants to examine functional dissociations within ATL. Multi-voxel pattern analysis identified spatially segregated regions: a response to input modality in anterior superior temporal gyrus (aSTG) and a response to meaning in more ventral anterior temporal lobe (vATL). This functional dissociation was supported by resting-state connectivity that found greater coupling for aSTG with primary auditory cortex and vATL with the default mode network. A meta-analytic decoding of these connectivity patterns implicated aSTG in processes closely tied to auditory processing (such as phonology and language) and vATL in meaning-based tasks (such as comprehension or social cognition). Thus we provide converging evidence for the segregation of meaning and input modality in the ATL.

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