Processing of semantic categorical and associative relations: An ERP mapping study

Asaid Khateb, Christoph M. Michel, Alan J. Pegna, Simon D. O'Dochartaigh, Theodor Landis, Jean Marie Annoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Brain imaging studies have repeatedly shown a dominant involvement of the left hemisphere (LH) in the processing of semantic information. However, some behavioural studies have suggested that the right hemisphere (RH) also processes lexico-semantic information although in a qualitatively different way. More specifically, it has been proposed that the LH shows a greater sensitivity to categorical (CR, or intraconceptual) relationships, while the RH appears more sensitive to associative (AR, or interconceptual) ones. Using semantically unrelated and related word pairs comprised of CR and AR, our aim in this study was to verify the involvement of the RH in the processing of associative relationships. Strength-independent topographical analysis of ERP map series using temporal segmentation procedures showed the same sequence of eight stable map segments in CR and AR conditions. Statistical analysis revealed no difference between conditions either in terms of duration or in terms of time of occurrence of the segmentation maps. However, field strength comparisons between the two conditions using the global field power measure at each time point revealed higher field strength in CR than in AR condition between 300 and 330 ms. Distributed source localisation showed a similar pattern of activation during this time period, involving predominantly left frontal regions. Nevertheless, the strength of the source found in the left medial frontal gyrus differed between CR than AR conditions, thus explaining the differences observed in field strength. Our data suggest that the processing of CR and AR words depend on the same neural network in the LH.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-55
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2003
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation grant No. 31-61680-00 to J.M. Annoni and the ‘Programme Commun de Recherche en Génie Biomédicale 1999–2002’ to C.M. Michel. We would like to thank Dr Rolando Grave De Peralta Menedez and Dr Sara Gonzales Andino for providing us with the inverse solutions and Denis Brunet for providing us with the computer programs used in this study.


  • Brain mapping
  • Distributed source localisation
  • ERP map series
  • Event-related potentials
  • Semantic processing
  • Temporal segmentation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Physiology (medical)
  • General Neuroscience


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