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    The language network is not engaged in object categorization

    Benn, Yael ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7482-5927, Ivanova, Anna A, Clark, Oliver ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1294-7360, Mineroff, Zachary, Seikus, Chloe, Silva, Jack Santos, Varley, Rosemary and Fedorenko, Evelina (2023) The language network is not engaged in object categorization. Cerebral Cortex, 33 (19). pp. 10380-10400. ISSN 1047-3211

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    The relationship between language and thought is the subject of long-standing debate. One claim states that language facilitates categorization of objects based on a certain feature (e.g. color) through the use of category labels that reduce interference from other, irrelevant features. Therefore, language impairment is expected to affect categorization of items grouped by a single feature (low-dimensional categories, e.g. “Yellow Things”) more than categorization of items that share many features (high-dimensional categories, e.g. “Animals”). To test this account, we conducted two behavioral studies with individuals with aphasia and an fMRI experiment with healthy adults. The aphasia studies showed that selective low-dimensional categorization impairment was present in some, but not all, individuals with severe anomia and was not characteristic of aphasia in general. fMRI results revealed little activity in language-responsive brain regions during both low- and high-dimensional categorization; instead, categorization recruited the domain-general multiple-demand network (involved in wide-ranging cognitive tasks). Combined, results demonstrate that the language system is not implicated in object categorization. Instead, selective low-dimensional categorization impairment might be caused by damage to brain regions responsible for cognitive control. Our work adds to the growing evidence of the dissociation between the language system and many cognitive tasks in adults.

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