The role of inferior frontal gyrus and inferior parietal lobule in semantic processing of Chinese characters
Functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to explore the neural correlates of semantic judgments to Chinese characters. Adult participants were asked to indicate if character pairs were related in meaning that were arranged in a continuous variable according to association strength. This parametric manipulation allowed for a more precise determination of the role of the left inferior parietal lobule in processing meaning, which has not been reported in previous Chinese studies. Consistent with previous findings in English, participants showed activation in left inferior frontal gyrus (BA 47, 45) and left posterior middle temporal gyrus (BA 21). Characters with stronger semantic association elicited greater activation in left inferior parietal lobule (BA 39), suggesting stronger integration of highly related semantic features. By contrast, characters with weaker semantic association elicited greater activation in both an anterior ventral region (BA 47) and a mid-ventral region of left inferior frontal gyrus (BA 45), suggesting a controlled retrieval process and a selection process. Our findings of association strength are discussed in a proposed neuro-anatomical model of semantic processing.