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Individual differences in gradients of intrinsic connectivity within the semantic network relate to distinct aspects of semantic cognition

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Publication details

DateAccepted/In press - 21 Jan 2022
DateE-pub ahead of print - 24 Mar 2022
DatePublished (current) - 1 May 2022
Number of pages13
Pages (from-to)48-60
Early online date24/03/22
Original languageEnglish


Semantic cognition allows us to make sense of our varied experiences, including the words we hear and the objects we see. Contemporary accounts identify multiple interacting components that underpin semantic cognition, including diverse unimodal “spoke” systems that are integrated by a heteromodal “hub”, and control processes that allow us to access weakly-encoded as well as dominant aspects of knowledge to suit the circumstances. The current study examined how these dimensions of semantic cognition might be related to whole-brain-derived components (or gradients) of connectivity. A nonlinear dimensionality reduction technique was applied to resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging from 176 participants to characterise the strength of two key connectivity gradients in each individual: the principal gradient captured the separation between unimodal and heteromodal cortex, while the second gradient corresponded to the distinction between motor and visual cortex. We then examined whether the magnitude of these gradients within the semantic network was related to specific aspects of semantic cognition by examining individual differences in semantic and non-semantic tasks. Participants whose intrinsic connectivity showed a better fit with Gradient 1 had faster identification of weak semantic associations. Furthermore, a better fit with Gradient 2 was linked to faster performance on picture semantic judgments. These findings show that individual differences in aspects of semantic cognition can be related to components of connectivity within the semantic network.

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