Famous face identification in temporal lobe epilepsy: Support for a multimodal integration model of semantic memory

Daniel L. Drane, Jeffrey G. Ojemann, Vaishali Phatak, David W. Loring, Robert E. Gross, Adam O. Hebb, Daniel L. Silbergeld, John W. Miller, Natalie L. Voets, Amit M. Saindane, Lawrence Barsalou, Kimford J. Meador, George A. Ojemann, Daniel Tranel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


This study aims to demonstrate that the left and right anterior temporal lobes (ATLs) perform critical but unique roles in famous face identification, with damage to either leading to differing deficit patterns reflecting decreased access to lexical or semantic concepts but not their degradation. Famous face identification was studied in 22 presurgical and 14 postsurgical temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) patients and 20 healthy comparison subjects using free recall and multiple choice (MC) paradigms. Right TLE patients exhibited presurgical deficits in famous face recognition, and postsurgical deficits in both famous face recognition and familiarity judgments. However, they did not exhibit any problems with naming before or after surgery. In contrast, left TLE patients demonstrated both pre- and postsurgical deficits in famous face naming but no significant deficits in recognition or familiarity. Double dissociations in performance between groups were alleviated by altering task demands. Postsurgical right TLE patients provided with MC options correctly identified greater than 70% of famous faces they initially rated as unfamiliar. Left TLE patients accurately chose the name for nearly all famous faces they recognized (based on their verbal description) but initially failed to name, although they tended to rapidly lose access to this name. We believe alterations in task demands activate alternative routes to semantic and lexical networks, demonstrating that unique pathways to such stored information exist, and suggesting a different role for each ATL in identifying visually presented famous faces. The right ATL appears to play a fundamental role in accessing semantic information from a visual route, with the left ATL serving to link semantic information to the language system to produce a specific name. These findings challenge several assumptions underlying amodal models of semantic memory, and provide support for the integrated multimodal theories of semantic memory and a distributed representation of concepts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1648-1667
Number of pages20
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Epilepsy surgery
  • Famous face naming and recognition
  • Models of semantic memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Famous face identification in temporal lobe epilepsy: Support for a multimodal integration model of semantic memory'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this