Putting an "end" to the motor cortex representations of action words

de Zubicaray, Greig, Arciuli, Joanne and McMahon, Katie (2013) Putting an "end" to the motor cortex representations of action words. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 25 11: 1957-1974. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_00437

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Author de Zubicaray, Greig
Arciuli, Joanne
McMahon, Katie
Title Putting an "end" to the motor cortex representations of action words
Journal name Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0898-929X
Publication date 2013-11
Year available 2013
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1162/jocn_a_00437
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Volume 25
Issue 11
Start page 1957
End page 1974
Total pages 18
Place of publication Cambridge, MA, United States
Publisher M I T Press
Collection year 2014
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Language processing is an example of implicit learning of multiple statistical cues that provide probabilistic information regarding word structure and use. Much of the current debate about language embodiment is devoted to how action words are represented in the brain, with motor cortex activity evoked by these words assumed to selectively reflect conceptual content and/or its simulation. We investigated whether motor cortex activity evoked by manual action words (e.g., caress) might reflect sensitivity to probabilistic orthographic–phonological cues to grammatical category embedded within individual words. We first review neuroimaging data demonstrating that nonwords evoke activity much more reliably than action words along the entire motor strip, encompassing regions proposed to be action category specific. Using fMRI, we found that disyllabic words denoting manual actions evoked increased motor cortex activity compared with non-body part-related words (e.g., canyon), activity which overlaps that evoked by observing and executing hand movements. This result is typically interpreted in support of language embodiment. Crucially, we also found that disyllabic nonwords containing endings with probabilistic cues predictive of verb status (e.g., -eve) evoked increased activity compared with nonwords with endings predictive of noun status (e.g., -age) in the identical motor area. Thus, motor cortex responses to action words cannot be assumed to selectively reflect conceptual content and/or its simulation. Our results clearly demonstrate motor cortex activity reflects implicit processing of ortho-phonological statistical regularities that help to distinguish a word's grammatical class.
Q-Index Code C1
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Institutional Status UQ

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Created: Tue, 23 Jul 2013, 16:51:42 EST by Sandrine Ducrot on behalf of School of Psychology