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Concrete spatial language: see what I mean?

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  • The Center for Semiotics
  • Center for Functionally Integrative Neuroscience
Conveying complex mental scenarios is at the heart of human language. Advances in cognitive linguistics suggest this is mediated by an ability to activate cognitive systems involved in non-linguistic processing of spatial information. In this fMRI-study, we compare sentences with a concrete spatial meaning to sentences with an abstract meaning. Using this contrast, we demonstrate that sentence meaning involving motion in a concrete topographical context, whether linked to animate or inanimate subjects nouns, yield more activation in a bilateral posterior network, including fusiform/parahippocampal, and retrosplenial regions, and the temporal-occipital-parietal junction. These areas have previously been shown to be involved in mental navigation and spatial memory tasks. Sentences with an abstract setting activate an extended largely left-lateralised network in the anterior temporal, and inferior and superior prefrontal cortices, previously found activated by comprehension of complex semantics such as narratives. These findings support a model of language, where the understanding of spatial semantic content emerges from the recruitment of brain regions involved in non-linguistic spatial processing.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBrain and Language
Volume92
Issue3
Pages (from-to)221-33
Number of pages12
ISSN0093-934X
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2005

    Research areas

  • Acoustic Stimulation, Adult, Cerebral Cortex, Female, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Parahippocampal Gyrus, Photic Stimulation, Reaction Time, Semantics, Space Perception

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