Beyond the word and image: II- Structural and functional connectivity of a common semantic system
Understanding events requires interplaying cognitive processes arising in neural networks whose organisation and connectivity remain subjects of controversy in humans. In the present study, by combining diffusion tensor imaging and functional interaction analysis, we aim to provide new insights on the organisation of the structural and functional pathways connecting the multiple nodes of the identified semantic system -shared by vision and language (Jouen et al., 2015). We investigated a group of 19 healthy human subjects during experimental tasks of reading sentences or seeing pictures. The structural connectivity was realised by deterministic tractography using an algorithm to extract white matter fibers terminating in the selected regions of interest (ROIs) and the functional connectivity by independent component analysis to measure correlated activities among these ROIs. The major connections link ventral neural stuctures including the parietal and temporal cortices through inferior and middle longitudinal fasciculi, the retrosplenial and parahippocampal cortices through the cingulate bundle, and the temporal and prefrontal structures through the uncinate fasciculus. The imageability score provided when the subject was reading a sentence was significantly correlated with the factor of anisotropy of the left parieto-temporal connections of the middle longitudinal fasciculus. A large part of this ventrally localised structural connectivity corresponds to functional interactions between the main parietal, temporal and frontal nodes. More precisely, the strong coactivation both in the anterior temporal pole and in the region of the temporo-parietal cortex suggests dual and cooperating roles for these areas within the semantic system. These findings are discussed in terms of two semantics-related sub-systems responsible for conceptual representation.