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Is the left inferior frontal cortex (LIFC) a single functional region, or can it be subdivided into distinct areas that contribute differently to word processing? Here we used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to investigate anterior and posterior LIFC when the meaning and sound of words were being processed. Relative to no stimulation, TMS of the anterior LIFC selectively increased response latencies when participants focused on the meaning of simultaneously presented words (i.e., synonym judgments) but not when they focused on the sound pattern of the words (i.e., homophone judgments). In contrast, the opposite dissociation was observed in the posterior LIFC, where stimulation selectively interfered with the phonological but not the semantic task. This double dissociation shows functionally distinct subdivisions of the LIFC that can be understood in terms of separable corticocortical connections linking the anterior LIFC to temporal pole regions associated with semantic memory and the posterior LIFC to temporoparietal regions involved in auditory speech processing.

Original publication




Journal article


J Neurosci

Publication Date





8010 - 8016


Acoustic Stimulation, Adult, Brain Mapping, Dominance, Cerebral, Female, Frontal Lobe, Humans, Language, Male, Photic Stimulation, Reaction Time, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation