Traces of vocabulary acquisition in the brain: Evidence from covert object naming

A.W. Ellis, C. Burani, C. Izura, A. Bromiley, A. Venneri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One of the strongest predictors of the speed with which adults can name a pictured object is the age at which the object and its name are first learned. Age of acquisition also predicts the retention or loss of individual words following brain damage in conditions like aphasia and Alzheimer's disease. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) was used to reveal brain areas differentially involved in naming objects with early or late acquired names. A baseline task involved passive viewing of non-objects. The comparison between the silent object naming conditions (early and late) with baseline showed significant activation in frontal, parietal and mediotemporal regions bilaterally and in the lingual and fusiform gyri on the left. Direct comparison of early and late items identified clusters with significantly greater activation for early acquired items at the occipital poles (in the posterior parts of the middle occipital gyri) and at the left temporal pole. In contrast, the left middle occipital and fusiform gyri showed significantly greater activation for late than early acquired items. We propose that greater activation to early than late objects at the occipital poles and at the left temporal pole reflects the more detailed visual and semantic representations of early than late acquired items. We propose that greater activation to late than early objects in the left middle occipital and fusiform gyri occurs because those areas are involved in mapping visual onto semantic representations, which is more difficult, and demands more resource, for late than for early items.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)958-968
Number of pages10
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2006

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