Abstract

Previous studies using positron emission tomography (PET) report blood flow changes in superior and middle temple gyri associated with auditory and language tasks (Petersen et al., 1988, 1989; Wise et al., 1991; Demonet et al., 1992; Howard et al., 1992 Sergent et al., 1992; Zatorre et al., 1992; Petrides et al., 1993; Raichle et al., 1994; Fiez et al., 1995). An important issue is whether these changes reflect the activation of a single functional region or multiple regions with distinct functional contributions. In the present study, we examined this issue by focusing upon two tasks for which we have previously reported posterior temporal blood flow changes: listening to auditorily presented words (Petersen et al., 1988, 1989), and generation of a verb in response to a visually presented noun (Raichle et al., 1994); see also Wise et al. (1991). We began by further characterizing a left temporoparietal region of change previously associated with auditory word presentation. This previously reported response was replicated, and the results were extended by demonstrating presentation of pseudowords also produced activation. We next asked whether the activation associated with auditory word presentation could be distinguished from that associated with the generation of verbs in response to visually presented nouns. It was found that the activations associated with these two tasks could be both functionally and spatially dissociated. Thus, two posterior temporal areas associated with auditory word presentation and verb generation appear to represent distinct areas concerned with word processing. More generally, the results demonstrate an approach for assessing the independence of two activated areas.