The neurocognitive basis of knowledge about object identity and events: Dissociations reflect opposing effects of semantic coherence and control

Jefferies, Elizabeth, Thompson, Hannah, Cornelissen, Piers and Smallwood, Jonathan (2020) The neurocognitive basis of knowledge about object identity and events: Dissociations reflect opposing effects of semantic coherence and control. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 375 (1791). p. 20190300. ISSN 0962-8436

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Semantic memory encompasses knowledge of specific objects and their diverse associations, but the mechanisms that allow us to retrieve aspects of knowledge required for a given task are poorly understood. The Dual Hub theory suggests that separate semantic stores represent knowledge of (i) taxonomic categories (in the anterior temporal lobes, ATL) and (ii) thematic associations (in angular gyrus, AG or posterior middle temporal gyrus, pMTG). Alternatively, the Controlled Semantic Cognition (CSC) framework suggests that semantic processing emerges from the flexible interaction of heteromodal semantic representations in ATL with a semantic control network, which includes pMTG as well as prefrontal regions. According to this view, ATL supports patterns of coherent auto-associative retrieval, while semantic control sites respond when ongoing conceptual activation needs to be altered to suit the task or context. These theories make different predictions about the nature of functional dissociations within the semantic network. We review evidence for these claims across multiple methods. First, we show ATL is sensitive to the strength of thematic associations as well as taxonomic relations. Next, we document functional dissociations between AG and pMTG: rather than these regions acting as comparable thematic hubs, AG is allied to the default mode network and supports more ‘automatic’ retrieval, while pMTG responds when control demands are high. However, the semantic control network, including pMTG, also shows a greater response to events/actions and verbs, supporting the claims of both theories. We propose that tasks tapping event semantics often require greater shaping of conceptual retrieval than comparison tasks, since these elements of our knowledge are inherently flexible, with relevant features depending on the context. In this way, the CSC account might be able to account for findings that suggest both a process and a content distinction within the semantic network.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: semantic, memory, event, action, fMRI, magnetoencephalography
Subjects: C700 Molecular Biology, Biophysics and Biochemistry
C800 Psychology
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Psychology
Depositing User: Elena Carlaw
Date Deposited: 26 Jun 2019 10:42
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2021 18:33

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