Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Selection between competing responses and stimulus-response association strength is thought to affect performance during verb generation. However, the specific contribution of these two processes remains unclear. Here we used fMRI to investigate the role of selection and association within frontal and BG circuits that are known to be involved in verb production. Subjects were asked to generate verbs from nouns in conditions requiring either high or low selection, but with constant association strength, and in conditions of weak or strong association strength, now with constant selection demands. Furthermore, we examined the role of selection and association during noun generation from noun stimuli. We found that the midpart of the left inferior frontal gyrus was more active in conditions requiring high compared with low selection, with matched association strength. The same left inferior frontal region activated irrespective of verb or noun generation. Results of ROI analyses showed effects of association strength only for verb generation and specifically in the anterior/ventral part of the left inferior frontal gyrus. Moreover, the BG were more active when weakly associated verbs had to be produced relative to weakly associated nouns. These results highlight a functional segregation within the left inferior frontal gyrus for verb generation. More generally, the findings suggest that both factors of selection between competing responses and association strength are important during single-word production with the latter factor becoming particularly critical when task-irrelevant stimuli interfere with the current task (here nouns during verb production), triggering additional activation of the BG.