Neuropsychological studies described brain damaged patients with a deficit at recognizing exemplars from some semantic categories while being still able to recognize exemplars from other categories, and vice versa. This evidence suggested that categories such as animals, plants, artifacts and conspecifics might be independently organized in the brain. Several theories tried to explain the category specificity, and proposed that concepts are represented in the brain according to the modality of their features, on the relevance of a domain for survival or on the degree of inter-correlation between features. Perhaps one limitation on investigation on how categories are represented in the brain has to do with the poor characterization of the concept about conspecifics often limited to famous and familiar persons as unique entities, and as such not very comparable with the other categories of stimuli. Recent findings suggested that even the knowledge about categories of conspecifics defined as social groups might well be represented independently of other categories.In the current thesis I investigated whether social group knowledge is indeed represented independently of other categories, consistently with previous findings, and the eventual neural substrates of such knowledge. In two different studies, I tested the knowledge of patients with brain tumors and neurodegenerative diseases about social groups, animate and inanimate entities. Correlating patients’ behavioural performance with structural MRI data, I found that the lesion of a left-lateralized set of areas was selectively associated with the impairment in naming social group pictures. Specifically, inferior frontal gyrus, insula and anterior temporal cortex were associated with social group processing in both the studies. Since these areas were reported to be involved in emotional processing, In a third study with healthy individuals, I tested whether one of the above brain regions, within the opercular part of inferior frontal gyrus, might be involved in processing social groups per se or in processing the valence of stimuli. Results revealed that this area was involved in the processing of negative stimuli and suggested that the semantic impairment in processing social groups might be related to the intrinsic emotional value of this category of stimuli. This pattern of findings suggests that human conceptual knowledge is associated with modality-specific processing areas, and that social group representation might interacts with emotional features.
|Titolo:||The semantic representation of social groups and its neural substrate|
|Data di pubblicazione:||19-gen-2017|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||8.1 PhD thesis|