The anterior temporal lobe (ATL) is thought to be critical for semantic memory–our knowledge of objects, people, words, and facts. However, there is substantial disagreement over the precise role of the ATL in semantic memory, and there is considerable variability in the anatomic findings that link the ATL with semantic processing. The inconsistent findings across studies may be related to the diverse anatomic structures within the ATL and their differential contribution to distinct modalities of semantic information (e.g., visual, auditory, affective).
Much of the evidence implicating the ATL in semantic memory has come from neuropsychology. In particular, patients with semantic dementia, a neurodegenerative disease affecting the ATL, exhibit a profound deficit in semantic knowledge with a relative sparing of most other cognitive domains 1) 2).