The neural correlates of semantic richness: Evidence from an fMRI study of word learning

Roberto A. Ferreira*, Silke M. Göbel, Mark Hymers, Andrew W. Ellis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigated the neural correlates of concrete nouns with either many or few semantic features. A group of 21 participants underwent two days of training and were then asked to categorize 40 newly learned words and a set of matched familiar words as living or nonliving in an MRI scanner. Our results showed that the most reliable effects of semantic richness were located in the left angular gyrus (AG) and middle temporal gyrus (MTG), where activation was higher for semantically rich than poor words. Other areas showing the same pattern included bilateral precuneus and posterior cingulate gyrus. Our findings support the view that AG and anterior MTG, as part of the multimodal network, play a significant role in representing and integrating semantic features from different input modalities. We propose that activation in bilateral precuneus and posterior cingulate gyrus reflects interplay between AG and episodic memory systems during semantic retrieval.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-80
Number of pages12
JournalBrain and Language
Early online date19 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015

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© 2015, Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.


  • Angular gyrus
  • FMRI
  • Middle temporal gyrus
  • Semantic features
  • Semantic representation
  • Semantic richness
  • Word learning

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