Nov 18, 2019

Names and their meanings: A dual-process account of proper-name encoding and retrieval

Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Thomas O'Rourke, Ruth de Diego Balaguer

Abstract

The ability to pick out a unique entity with a proper name is an important component of human language. It has been a primary focus of research in the philosophy of language since the nineteenth century. Brain-based evidence has shed new light on this capacity, and an extensive literature indicates the involvement of distinct fronto-temporal and temporo-occipito-parietal association cortices in proper-name retrieval. However, comparatively few efforts have sought to explain how memory encoding processes lead to the later recruitment of these distinct regions at retrieval. Here, we provide a unified account of proper-name encoding and retrieval, reviewing evidence that socio-emotional and unitized encoding subserve the retrieval of proper names via anterior-temporal-prefrontal activations. Meanwhile, non-unitized item-item and item-context encoding support subsequent retrieval, largely dependent on the temporo-occipito-parietal cortex. We contend that this well-established divergence in encoding systems can explain how proper names are later retrieved from distinct neural structures. Furthermore, we explore how evidence reviewed here can inform a century-and-a-half-old debate about proper names and the meanings they pick out.

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Mentioned in this Paper

Research
Prefrontal Cortex
Brain
Structure of Retromandibular Vein
Fronto-orbital Sulcus
Literature
Cerebral Cortex
Memory
Neural Networks (Anatomic)
Emotions

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