Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
The human brain's representation of objects has been proposed to exist as a network of coactivated neural regions present in multiple cognitive systems. However, it is not known if there is a region specific to the process of activating an integrated object representation in semantic memory from multimodal feature stimuli (e.g., picture–word). A previous study using word–word feature pairs as stimulus input showed that the left thalamus is integrally involved in object activation (Kraut, Kremen, Segal, et al., this issue). In the present study, participants were presented picture–word pairs that are features of objects, with the task being to decide if together they “activated” an object not explicitly presented (e.g., picture of a candle and the word “icing” activate the internal representation of a “cake”). For picture–word pairs that combine to elicit an object, signal change was detected in the ventral temporo-occipital regions, pre-SMA, left primary somatomotor cortex, both caudate nuclei, and the dorsal thalami bilaterally. These findings suggest that the left thalamus is engaged for either picture or word stimuli, but the right thalamus appears to be involved when picture stimuli are also presented with words in semantic object activation tasks. The somatomotor signal changes are likely secondary to activation of the semantic object representations from multimodal visual stimuli.