Sunday, May 15, 2016

Semantic Atlas Shrugs

credits: University of California Berkeley 

Research at the University of California Berkeley has consecrated a semantic atlas of the brain, and reorganized our understanding of the entire semantic system in the process.

It was previously thought that word-memory was concentrated into certain semantic groups throughout the brain. Now we know that they’re scattered everywhere. Not only that, the pattern of distribution is quite similar from person to person.

In the study, volunteers listened to a radio program while active regions of their brain (showing more blood flow) left their mark on a timestamped map. Scientists later matched the words of the radio show to the brain’s activity map to create this “semantic atlas”.

Although the semantic atlas is now known to spread across the whole cerebral cortex, the researchers revealed groupings into the following areas: mental, emotional, social, communal, professional, violent, temporal, abstract, locational, numeric, tactile, and visual.

The same word can show up many times in the atlas. Words with abstract meanings and words related to the body populate many regions of the atlas.

Taken from the BBC article:
“For example, the word "top" was represented in a part of the brain that responds to words about clothing and appearance, and also in a region that deals with numbers and measurements.”

see a more detailed map of the semantic atlas here at Nature:

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