Picture naming yields highly consistent cortical activation patterns: Test–retest reliability of magnetoencephalography recordings

Heidi Ala-Salomäki*, Jan Kujala, Mia Liljeström, Riitta Salmelin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
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Reliable paradigms and imaging measures of individual-level brain activity are paramount when reaching from group-level research studies to clinical assessment of individual patients. Magnetoencephalography (MEG) provides a direct, non-invasive measure of cortical processing with high spatiotemporal accuracy, and is thus well suited for assessment of functional brain damage in patients with language difficulties. This MEG study aimed to identify, in a delayed picture naming paradigm, source-localized evoked activity and modulations of cortical oscillations that show high test–retest reliability across measurement days in healthy individuals, demonstrating their applicability in clinical settings. For patients with a language disorder picture naming can be a challenging task. Therefore, we also determined whether a semantic judgment task (‘Is this item living?’) with a spoken response (“yes”/“no”) would suffice to induce comparably consistent activity within brain regions related to language production. The MEG data was collected from 19 healthy participants on two separate days. In picture naming, evoked activity was consistent across measurement days (intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC)>0.4) in the left frontal (400–800 ms after image onset), sensorimotor (200–800 ms), parietal (200–600 ms), temporal (200–800 ms), occipital (400–800 ms) and cingulate (600–800 ms) regions, as well as the right temporal (600–800 ms) region. In the semantic judgment task, consistent evoked activity was spatially more limited, occurring in the left temporal (200–800 ms), sensorimotor (400–800 ms), occipital (400–600 ms) and subparietal (600–800 ms) regions, and the right supramarginal cortex (600–800 ms). The delayed naming task showed typical beta oscillatory suppression in premotor and sensorimotor regions (800–1200 ms) but other consistent modulations of oscillatory activity were mostly observed in posterior cortical regions that have not typically been associated with language processing. The high test–retest consistency of MEG evoked activity in the picture naming task testifies to its applicability in clinical evaluations of language function, as well as in longitudinal MEG studies of language production in clinical and healthy populations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number117651
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Individual assessment
  • MEG
  • Picture naming
  • Reproducibility
  • Semantic judgment
  • Test–retest


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