Developmental changes in the neural correlates of semantic processing
- PMID: 16275017[PubMed].
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to explore the neural correlates of semantic judgments in the auditory modality in a group of 9- to 15-year-old children. Subjects were required to indicate if word pairs were related in meaning. Consistent with previous findings in adults, children showed activation in bilateral superior temporal gyri (BA 22) for recognizing spoken words as well as activations in bilateral inferior frontal gyri (BAs 47, 45) and left middle temporal gyrus (BA 21) for semantic processing. The neural substrates of semantic association and age differences were also investigated. Words with strong semantic association elicited significantly greater activation in the left inferior parietal lobule (BA 40), whereas words with weak semantic association elicited activation in left inferior frontal gyrus (BAs 47/45). Correlations with age were observed in the left middle temporal gyrus (BA 21) and the right inferior frontal gyrus (BA 47). The pattern of results for semantic association implies that the left inferior parietal lobule effectively integrates highly related semantic features and the left inferior frontal gyrus becomes more active for words that require a greater search for semantic associations. The developmental results suggest that older children recruit the right inferior frontal gyrus as they conduct a broader semantic search and the left middle temporal gyrus to provide more efficient access to semantic representations.