Graded specialisation within and between the anterior temporal lobes

Grace E Rice, Paul Hoffman, Matthew A Lambon Ralph

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Considerable evidence from different methodologies has identified the anterior temporal lobes (ATLs) as a key region for the representation of semantic knowledge. Research interest is now shifting to investigate the roles of different ATL sub-regions in semantic representation, with particular emphasis on the functions of the left versus right ATLs. In this review, we provide evidence for graded specialisations both between and within the ATLs. We argue (1) that multimodal, pan-category semantic representations are supported jointly by both left and right ATLs, yet (2) that the ATLs are not homogenous in their function. Instead, subtle functional gradations both between and within the ATLs emerge as a consequence of differential connectivity with primary sensory/motor/limbic regions. This graded specialisation account of semantic representation provides a compromise between theories which posit no differences between the functions of the left versus right ATLs and those which posit that the left and right ATLs are entirely segregated in function. Evidence for this graded account comes from converging sources and its benefits have been exemplified in formal computational models. We propose that this graded principle is not only a defining feature of the ATLs but is a more general neurocomputational principle found throughout the temporal lobes.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Issue number84-97
Early online date26 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • conceptual knowledge
  • anterior temporal lobes
  • semantic memory
  • laterality
  • hemispheric specialization


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