Neural correlates of word production stages delineated by parametric modulation of psycholinguistic variables

Stephen M. Wilson, Anna Lisette Isenberg, Gregory Hickok

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


Word production is a complex multistage process linking conceptual representations, lexical entries, phonological forms and articulation. Previous studies have revealed a network of predominantly left-lateralized brain regions supporting this process, but many details regarding the precise functions of different nodes in this network remain unclear. To better delineate the functions of regions involved in word production, we used event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to identify brain areas where blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) responses to overt picture naming were modulated by three psycholinguistic variables: concept familiarity, word frequency, and word length, and one behavioral variable: reaction time. Each of these variables has been suggested by prior studies to be associated with different aspects of word production. Processing of less familiar concepts was associated with greater BOLD responses in bilateral occipitotemporal regions, reflecting visual processing and conceptual preparation. Lower frequency words produced greater BOLD signal in left inferior temporal cortex and the left temporoparietal junction, suggesting involvement of these regions in lexical selection and retrieval and encoding of phonological codes. Word length was positively correlated with signal intensity in Heschl's gyrus bilaterally, extending into the mid-superior temporal gyrus (STG) and sulcus (STS) in the left hemisphere. The left mid-STS site was also modulated by reaction time, suggesting a role in the storage of lexical phonological codes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3596-3608
Number of pages13
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2009


  • Event-related
  • Functional MRI
  • Lexical access

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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