Effects of transcranial magnetic stimulation over the left posterior superior temporal gyrus on picture-word interference


Word-production theories argue that during language production, a concept activates multiple lexical candidates in left temporal cortex, and the intended word is selected from this set. Evidence for theories on spoken-word production comes, for example, from the picture-word interference task, where participants name pictures superimposed by congruent (e.g., picture: rabbit, distractor “rabbit”), categorically related (e.g., distractor “sheep”), or unrelated (e.g., distractor “fork”) words. Typically, whereas congruent distractors facilitate naming, related distractors slow down picture naming relative to unrelated distractors, resulting in semantic interference. However, the neural correlates of semantic interference are debated. Previous neuroimaging studies have shown that the left mid-to-posterior STG (pSTG) is involved in the interference associated with semantically related distractors. To probe the functional relevance of this area, we targeted the left pSTG with focal repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) while subjects performed a picture-word interference task. Unexpectedly, pSTG stimulation did not affect the semantic interference effect but selectively increased the congruency effect (i.e., faster naming with congruent distractors). The facilitatory TMS effect selectively occurred in the more difficult list with an overall lower name agreement. Our study adds new evidence to the causal role of the left pSTG in the interaction between picture and distractor representations or processing streams, only partly supporting previous neuroimaging studies. Moreover, the observed unexpected condition-specific facilitatory rTMS effect argues for an interaction of the task- or stimulus-induced brain state with the modulatory TMS effect. These issues should be systematically addressed in future rTMS studies on language production.

In: PLOS ONE, 15(11): e0242941

Rejection history:

Journal Outcome Reason
Cortex Desk rejected after more than 1 month The usual stuff
Neurobiology of Language Rejected after reviews Concerns cannot be addressed through standard revision
Psychonomic Bulletin and Review Rejected after revision No clear novel theoretical advance unambiguously supported by data