Distinct roles for the anterior temporal lobe and angular gyrus in the spatiotemporal cortical semantic network.
Semantic knowledge is supported by numerous brain regions, but the spatiotemporal configuration of the network that links these areas remains an open question. The hub-and-spokes model posits that a central semantic hub coordinates this network. In this study, we explored distinct aspects that define a semantic hub, as reflected in the spatiotemporal modulation of neural activity and connectivity by semantic variables, from the earliest stages of semantic processing. We used source-reconstructed electro/magnetoencephalography, and investigated the concreteness contrast across three tasks. In a whole-cortex analysis, the left anterior temporal lobe (ATL) was the only area that showed modulation of evoked brain activity from 100 ms post-stimulus. Furthermore, using Dynamic Causal Modeling of the evoked responses, we investigated effective connectivity amongst the candidate semantic hub regions, that is, left ATL, supramarginal/angular gyrus (SMG/AG), middle temporal gyrus, and inferior frontal gyrus. We found that models with a single semantic hub showed the highest Bayesian evidence, and the hub region was found to change from ATL (within 250 ms) to SMG/AG (within 450 ms) over time. Our results support a single semantic hub view, with ATL showing sustained modulation of neural activity by semantics, and both ATL and AG underlying connectivity depending on the stage of semantic processing.