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What is in a name? Spatial brain circuits are used to track discourse references

Almor, Amita; Smith, David V.a; Bonilha, Leonardob; Fridriksson, Juliusb; Rorden, Chrisb

doi: 10.1097/WNR.0b013e32810f2e11

Pronouns are commonly used instead of explicitly repeating a name, and, in many cases, we comprehend language faster when pronouns are used instead of repetitive references. This is surprising because pronouns are often ambiguous, whereas repeated names provide precise reference. We used functional MRI to investigate the neural correlates of this paradoxical preference. Reading repeated names elicited more activation than pronouns in the middle and inferior temporal gyri and intraparietal sulcus. The temporal lobe activation suggests that repeated names but not pronouns evoke multiple representations that have to be integrated. The intraparietal sulcus activation suggests that this integration relies on brain regions used for spatial attention and perceptual integration.

Departments of aPsychology

bCommunication Sciences and Disorders, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, USA

Correspondence to Dr Amit Almor, PhD, Psychology Department, University of South Carolina, 1512 Pendleton Street, Columbia, SC 29208, USA

Tel: +1 803 777 4302; fax: +1 305 675 7613; e-mail:

Received 24 January 2007; accepted 12 February 2007

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.