fMRI Task: Object Naming

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Object naming tasks are some of the oldest, most widely used measures of language function across fields, and are key measures used to quantify the risk surgery poses to language skill. The ability to retrieve names is the language skill that is most frequently influenced by temporal lobe surgery (Busch et al., 2017; Sherman et al., 2011).  

In fMRI, a standard evaluation of naming involves an active condition where patients view objects and imagine saying the name of the object, and potentially also something they can do with it.  The control condition used varies, and can be simple rest (eyes open, with or without a crosshair) or viewing of the same images, scrambled.  A potential limitation of these tasks is that it can be difficult to monitor patient engagement and accuracy–i.e., could they actually perform the task?  This can be mitigated with an estimate of accuracy by evaluating performance on the same task after scanning.

There are many early studies with different methods using naming protocols (e.g., PET; Bookheimer et al. 1995).  When used in fMRI as part of a panel of tasks, correspondence with Wada results is good.

We have recently validated the version we make available here for language lateralization (Benjamin et al., 2017). Pairing this with other measures of naming skill using different modalities can be particularly effective.


  1. Bookheimer et al., 1995.  Regional Cerebral Blood Flow During Object Naming and Word Reading.  Human Brain Mapping 3:93-106.

  2. Bookheimer et al., 1997.  A direct comparison of PET activation and electrocortical stimulation mapping for language localization.  Neurology 48:1056-1065.

  3. Benson et al., 1999.  Language dominance determined by whole brain functional MRI in patients with brain lesions. Neurology, 52(4), 798–809.

  4. Rutten et al., 2002.  fMRI-Determined Language Lateralization in Patients with Unilateral or Mixed Language Dominance According to the Wada Test.  NeuroImage 17, 447– 460.

  5. Rutten et al., 2002.  Reproducibility of fMRI-Determined Language Lateralization in Individual Subjects.  Brain and Language 80, 421–437.

  6. Benjamin et al., 2017.  Presurgical language fMRI: Mapping of six critical regions.  Human Brain Mapping: In press.