An MEG study of picture naming

Willem J. M. Levelt, Peter Praamstra, Antje S. Meyer, Päivi Helenius, Riitta Salmelin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

208 Citations (Scopus)
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The purpose of this study was to relate a psycholinguistic processing model of picture naming to the dynamics of cortical activation during picture naming. The activation was recorded from eight Dutch subjects with a whole-head neuromagnetometer. The processing model, based on extensive naming latency studies, is a stage model. In preparing a picture's name, the speaker performs a chain of specific operations. They are, in this order, computing the visual percept, activating an appropriate lexical concept, selecting the target word from the mental lexicon, phonological encoding, phonetic encoding, and initiation of articulation. The time windows for each of these operations are reasonably well known and could be related to the peak activity of dipole sources in the individual magnetic response patterns. The analyses showed a clear progression over these time windows from early occipital activation, via parietal and temporal to frontal activation. The major specific findings were that (1) a region in the left posterior temporal lobe, agreeing with the location of Wernicke's area, showed prominent activation starting about 200 msec after picture onset and peaking at about 350 msec, (i.e., within the stage of phonological encoding), and (2) a consistent activation was found in the right parietal cortex, peaking at about 230 msec after picture onset, thus preceding and partly overlapping with the left temporal response. An interpretation in terms of the management of visual attention is proposed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)553-567
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1998
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • cortical activation
  • picture naming

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