Specifying the role of the left prefrontal cortex in word selection

S. K. Riès, C. R. Karzmark, E. Navarrete, R. T. Knight, Nina Dronkers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Word selection allows us to choose words during language production. This is often viewed as a competitive process wherein a lexical representation is retrieved among semantically-related alternatives. The left prefrontal cortex (LPFC) is thought to help overcome competition for word selection through top-down control. However, whether the LPFC is always necessary for word selection remains unclear. We tested 6 LPFC-injured patients and controls in two picture naming paradigms varying in terms of item repetition. Both paradigms elicited the expected semantic interference effects (SIE), reflecting interference caused by semantically-related representations in word selection. However, LPFC patients as a group showed a larger SIE than controls only in the paradigm involving item repetition. We argue that item repetition increases interference caused by semantically-related alternatives, resulting in increased LPFC-dependent cognitive control demands. The remaining network of brain regions associated with word selection appears to be sufficient when items are not repeated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-147
Number of pages13
JournalBrain and Language
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015


  • Chronic stroke patients
  • Language production
  • Left prefrontal cortex
  • Proactive control
  • Semantic interference
  • Word selection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Language and Linguistics


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