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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

February 2009, Vol. 21, No. 2, Pages 403-414
(doi: 10.1162/jocn.2008.21030)
© 2008 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Functional Representation of Living and Nonliving Domains across the Cerebral Hemispheres: A Combined Event-related Potential/Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Study
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Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) over the left hemisphere has been shown to disrupt semantic processing but, to date, there has been no direct demonstration of the electrophysiological correlates of this interference. To gain insight into the neural basis of semantic systems, and in particular, study the temporal and functional organization of object categorization processing, we combined repetitive TMS (rTMS) and ERPs. Healthy volunteers performed a picture–word matching task in which Snodgrass drawings of natural (e.g., animal) and artifactual (e.g., tool) categories were associated with a word. When short trains of high-frequency rTMS were applied over Wernicke's area (in the region of the CP5 electrode) immediately before the stimulus onset, we observed delayed response times to artifactual items, and thus, an increased dissociation between natural and artifactual domains. This behavioral effect had a direct ERP correlate. In the response period, the stimuli from the natural domain elicited a significant larger late positivity complex than those from the artifactual domain. These differences were significant over the centro-parietal region of the right hemisphere. These findings demonstrate that rTMS interferes with postperceptual categorization processing of natural and artifactual stimuli that involve separate subsystems in distinct cortical areas.