Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Previous behavioral studies reported a robust effect of increased naming latencies when objects to be named were blocked within semantic category, compared to items blocked between category. This semantic context effect has been attributed to various mechanisms including inhibition or excitation of lexico-semantic representations and incremental learning of associations between semantic features and names, and is hypothesized to increase demands on verbal self-monitoring during speech production. Objects within categories also share many visual structural features, introducing a potential confound when interpreting the level at which the context effect might occur. Consistent with previous findings, we report a significant increase in response latencies when naming categorically related objects within blocks, an effect associated with increased perfusion fMRI signal bilaterally in the hippocampus and in the left middle to posterior superior temporal cortex. No perfusion changes were observed in the middle section of the left middle temporal cortex, a region associated with retrieval of lexical–semantic information in previous object naming studies. Although a manipulation of visual feature similarity did not influence naming latencies, we observed perfusion increases in the perirhinal cortex for naming objects with similar visual features that interacted with the semantic context in which objects were named. These results provide support for the view that the semantic context effect in object naming occurs due to an incremental learning mechanism, and involves increased demands on verbal self-monitoring.