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The role of the left anterior temporal lobe in language processing revisited: Evidence from an individual with ATL resection

Various hypotheses about the role of the anterior temporal lobe (ATL) in language processing have been proposed. One hypothesis is that it binds the semantic/conceptual properties of words, functioning as a hub for linking modality-specific conceptual properties of objects. This hypothesis predicts that damage to ATL would give rise to impaired conceptual knowledge of all categories. A related school of hypotheses assumes that the left ATL is critical for lexical retrieval, with different sub-regions potentially important for different categories of items. We examined these hypotheses by studying a case of surgical resection of left ATL due to a low-grade glioma (LGG). Thorough language assessments performed four months after the operation revealed the following profile: the patient showed intact conceptual knowledge for all categories of items tested using both accuracy and response latency measures; he suffered from name retrieval deficits for proper names (people and place names) and artifacts (including tools), but showed no name retrieval difficulties for animate things. This pattern of results challenges both target hypotheses about the role of ATL in language processing tested here.

from Cortex