Skip to main content

Developmental and skill effects on the neural correlates of semantic processing to visually presented words


Chou TLTai-Li , Booth JRJames R , Bitan TTali , Burman DDDouglas D , Bigio JDJordan D , Cone NENadia E , Lu DDong , Cao FFan . Human brain mapping. 2006 11 ; 27(11). 915-24


Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to explore the neural correlates of semantic judgments to visual words in a group of 9- to 15-year-old children. Subjects were asked to indicate if word pairs were related in meaning. Consistent with previous findings in adults, children showed activation in bilateral inferior frontal gyri (Brodmann area [BA] 47, 45) and left middle temporal gyrus (BA 21). Words with strong semantic association elicited significantly greater activation in bilateral inferior parietal lobules (BA 40), suggesting stronger integration of highly related semantic features. By contrast, words with weak semantic association elicited greater activation in left inferior frontal gyrus (BA 45) and middle temporal gyrus (BA 21), suggesting more difficult feature search and more extensive access to semantic representations. We also examined whether age and skill explained unique variance in the patterns of activation. Increasing age was correlated with greater activation in left middle temporal gyrus (BA 21) and inferior parietal lobule (BA 40), suggesting that older children have more elaborated semantic representations and more complete semantic integration processes, respectively. Decreasing age was correlated with activation in right superior temporal gyrus (BA 22) and decreasing accuracy was correlated with activation in right middle temporal gyrus (BA 21), suggesting the engagement of ancillary systems in the right hemisphere for younger and lower-skill children.