Connectivity among semantic associates: an fMRI study of semantic priming

Wible CG, Han SD, Spencer MH, Kubicki M, Niznikiewicz MH, Jolesz FA, McCarley RW, Nestor P

Brain Lang 2006 Jun;97(3):294-305

PMID: 16413049


Semantic priming refers to a reduction in the reaction time to identify or make a judgment about a stimulus that has been immediately preceded by a semantically related word or picture and is thought to result from a partial overlap in the semantic associates of the two words. A semantic priming lexical decision task using spoken words was presented in event-related fMRI and behavioral paradigms. Word pairs varied in terms of semantic relatedness and the connectivity between associates. Thirteen right-handed subjects underwent fMRI imaging and 10 additional subjects were tested in a behavioral version of the semantic priming task. It was hypothesized priming would be greatest, reaction time fastest, and cortical activation reduced the most for related word pairs of high connectivity, followed by related word pairs of low connectivity, and then by unrelated word pairs. Behavioral and fMRI results confirmed these predictions. fMRI activity located primarily in bilateral posterior superior and middle temporal regions showed modulation by connectivity and relatedness. The results suggest that these regions are involved in semantic processing.