The bilateral anterior temporal lobes play a key role in semantic representation. This is clearly demonstrated by the performance of patients with semantic dementia, a disorder characterised by a progressive and selective decline in semantic memory over all modalities as a result of anterior temporal atrophy. Although all patients exhibit a progressive decline in both single-word production and comprehension, those with greater atrophy to the left anterior temporal lobe show a stronger decline in word production than comprehension. This asymmetry has been attributed to the greater connectivity of the left anterior temporal lobe with left-lateralized speech production mechanisms. Virtual lesioning of the left ATL using offline repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) has been shown to disrupt picture naming, but, the impact of right ATL rTMS has yet to be explored. We tested the prediction that disruption of picture naming in normal participants by rTMS should be greater for the left than the right ATL. We found a significant increase in picture naming latencies specifically for stimulation of the left ATL only. Neither left nor right ATL TMS slowed performance in a number naming control task. These results support the hypothesis that although both temporal lobes are part of a widespread semantic network in the human brain, the left anterior temporal lobe possesses a stronger connection to left-lateralized speech production areas than the right temporal lobe.
- anterior temporal lobes
- speech production