We investigate which neural substrate are critical for language and semantic processing. So far we have focused on:

  • the role played by the left and right anterior temporal lobe (ATL) in, respectively, verbal and nonverbal semantic (Borghesani et al., Cortex, 2019; Borghesani et al., NeuroImage:Clinical, 2020; Borghesani et al., Aphasiology, 2019)
  • how ATL damage can be (partially) compensated by the over recruitment of spared dorsal and posterior areas (Borghesani et al., Brain, 2020; Borghesani et al., Brain, 2021)

Left vs Right ATL

Borghesani, V., Narvid, J., Battistella, G., Shwe, W., Watson, C., Binney, R., Sturm, V., Miller, Z., Mandelli, M.L., Miller, B., Gorno-Tempini, M.L. (2019) “Looks familiar, but I do not know who she is”: The role of the anterior right temporal lobe in famous face recognition. Cortex

Looking at a face, have you ever had the feeling you know who she is but cannot remember her name or personal details? Thanks to three carefully designed experimental tasks we investigate the neural correlates of name retrieval, semantic information association, and familiarity judgment in a large population of healthy controls and patients with neurodegenerative diseases. Our finding suggest that while naming and semantic association rely on the integrity of the left anterior temporal lobe, the right anterior temporal lobe is crucial for familiarity judgment.

Borghesani, V., Battistella, G., Mandelli, M., Miller, Z., & Gorno-Tempini, M.L. (2020) Regional and hemispheric susceptibility of the temporal lobe to FTLD-TDP type C pathology NeuroImage:Clinical

Leveraging the largest cohort of path-proven TDP-43-C cases clinically described, we shed light on regional temporal lobe susceptibility to this proteinopathy and its effects on cognition. First, we show that, contrary to expectations, predominant right-sided atrophy occurs in up to 40% of cases diagnosed with temporal variants of FTD caused by TDP-43-C. Moreover, we provide the first detailed characterization of atrophy distribution within the ATLs, indicating that medial ATL regions are the most vulnerable to TDP-43-C pathology. Finally, we show that atrophy progression is similar irrespective of the initial lateralization, which in turns drives the clinical manifestations.

Vonk*, J., Borghesani*, V., … & Gorno-Tempini, M.L. (2019) **Verbal semantics and the left dorsolateral anterior temporal lobe: a longitudinal case of bilateral temporal degeneration**. _Aphasiology_

We report the in-depth longitudinal investigation of cognitive and neuroanatomical features of an unusual case of ATL neurodegeneration with relative sparing of left lateral ATL regions. The details of this rare case of early medial more than lateral ATL degeneration are consistent with a bilateral organization of the semantic system and, crucially, with a functional dissociation between medial paralimbic and lateral neocortical temporal regions.

(partial) Compensation?

Borghesani, V., Hinkley, L.B., Ranasinghe, K., Thompson, M., Shwe, W., Mizuiri, D., Honma, S., Henry, M., Houde, J.F., Miller, Z., Nagarajan, S.S., & Gorno-Tempini, M.L. (2020) Taking the sub-lexical route: the spatiotemporal dynamics of reading in semantic variant of Primary Progressive Aphasia. Brain Brain

We investigate brain dynamics during irregular word reading using magnetoencephalographic imaging in patients with semantic variant of primary progressive aphasia. Due to ventral anterior temporal lobe neurodegeneration, patients show greater reliance of dorsal, occipito-parietal brain regions – providing novel evidence for the interplay between ventral and dorsal routes for reading.

Borghesani, V., Dale, C., Hinkley, L.B., Lukic, S.., Lauricella, M., Shwe, W., Mizuiri, D., Honma, S., Houde, J.F., Miller, Z., Gorno-Tempini, M.L, .& Nagarajan, S.S., (2021) Neural dynamics of semantic categorization in semantic variant of Primary Progressive Aphasia. eLife

We compared semantic variant Primary Progressive Aphasia (svPPA) patients and healthy controls in a semantic categorization task while recording brain activity with MEG. Patients and controls performed the task equally well (and fast) but svPPA participants over-activated occipital areas suggesting over-reliance on perceptual processing to compensate the conceptual loss due to ATL atrophy.