Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
The aim of the current study was to shed further light on control processes that shape semantic access and selection during speech production. These processes have been linked to differential cortical activation in the left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and the left middle temporal gyrus (MTG); however, the particular function of these regions is not yet completely elucidated. We applied transcranial direct current stimulation to the left IFG and the left MTG (or sham stimulation) while participants named pictures in the presence of associatively related, categorically related, or unrelated distractor words. This direct modulation of target regions can help to better delineate the functional role of these regions in lexico-semantic selection. Independent of stimulation, the data show interference (i.e., longer naming latencies) with categorically related distractors and facilitation (i.e., shorter naming latencies) with associatively related distractors. Importantly, stimulation location interacted with the associative effect. Whereas the semantic interference effect did not differ between IFG, MTG, and sham stimulations, the associative facilitation effect was diminished under MTG stimulation. Analyses of latency distributions suggest this pattern to result from a response reversal. Associative facilitation occurred for faster responses, whereas associative interference resulted in slower responses under MTG stimulation. This reduction of the associative facilitation effect under transcranial direct current stimulation may be caused by an unspecific overactivation in the lexicon or by promoting competition among associatively related representations. Taken together, the results suggest that the MTG is especially involved in the processes underlying associative facilitation and that semantic interference and associative facilitation are linked to differential activation in the brain.