Shared neural processes support semantic control and action understanding

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Executive-semantic control and action understanding appear to recruit overlapping brain regions but existing evidence from neuroimaging meta-analyses and neuropsychology lacks spatial precision; we therefore manipulated difficulty and feature type (visual vs. action) in a single fMRI study. Harder judgements recruited an executive-semantic network encompassing medial and inferior frontal regions (including LIFG) and posterior temporal cortex (including pMTG). These regions partially overlapped with brain areas involved in action but not visual judgements. In LIFG, the peak responses to action and difficulty were spatially identical across participants, while these responses were overlapping yet spatially distinct in posterior temporal cortex. We propose that the co-activation of LIFG and pMTG allows the flexible retrieval of semantic information, appropriate to the current context; this might be necessary both for semantic control and understanding actions. Feature selection in difficult trials also recruited ventral occipital-temporal areas, not implicated in action understanding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-35
Number of pages12
JournalBrain and Language
Early online date3 Feb 2015
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. This content is made available by the publisher under a Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND Licence.

Date of acceptance - 4/1/2015


  • Semantic
  • Action
  • Control
  • Executive
  • fMRI

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