UC Berkeley Press Release



  Neuropsychologia . 2007 Oct 24; [Epub ahead of print]

Winter 2007, Volume 12 Issue 4: 287-290

The influence of rTMS over prefrontal and motor areas in a morphological task: Grammatical vs. semantic effects.

Gerfo EL , Oliveri M , Torriero S , Salerno S , Koch G , Caltagirone C

Fondazione “Santa Lucia” IRCCS, Roma, Italy.

We investigated the differential role of two frontal regions in the processing of grammatical and semantic knowledge. Given the documented specificity of the prefrontal cortex for the grammatical class of verbs, and of the primary motor cortex for the semantic class of action words, we sought to investigate whether the prefrontal cortex is also sensitive to semantic effects, and whether the motor cortex is also sensitive to grammatical class effects. We used repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) to suppress the excitability of a portion of left prefontal cortex (first experiment) and of the motor area (second experiment). In the first experiment we found that rTMS applied to the left prefrontal cortex delays the processing of action verbs' retrieval, but is not critical for retrieval of state verbs and state nouns. In the second experiment we found that rTMS applied to the left motor cortex delays the processing of action words, both name and verbs, while it is not critical for the processing of state words. These results support the notion that left prefrontal and motor cortex are involved in the process of action word retrieval. Left prefrontal cortex subserves processing of both grammatical and semantic information, whereas motor cortex contributes to the processing of semantic representation of action words without any involvement in the representation of grammatical categories.