Regionally specific cortical lateralization of abstract and concrete verb processing: Magnetic mismatch negativity study

Maxim Ulanov*, Grigory Kopytin, Beatriz Bermúdez-Margaretto, Ioannis Ntoumanis, Aleksei Gorin, Olesya Moiseenko, Evgeny Blagovechtchenski, Victoria Moiseeva, Anna Shestakova, Iiro Jääskeläinen, Yury Shtyrov

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The neural underpinnings of processing concrete and abstract semantics remain poorly understood. Previous fMRI studies have shown that multimodal and amodal neural networks respond differentially to different semantic types; importantly, abstract semantics activates more left-lateralized networks, as opposed to more bilateral activity for concrete words. Due to the lack of temporal resolution, these fMRI results do not allow to easily separate language- and task-specific brain responses and to disentangle early processing stages from later post-comprehension phenomena. To tackle this, we used magnetoencephalography (MEG), a time-resolved neuroimaging technique, in combination with a task-free oddball mismatch negativity (MMN) paradigm, an established approach to tracking early automatic activation of word-specific memory traces in the brain. We recorded the magnetic MMN responses in 30 healthy adults to auditorily presented abstract and concrete action verbs to assess lateralization of word-specific lexico-semantic processing in a set of neocortical areas. We found that MMN responses to these stimuli showed different lateralization patterns of activity in the upper limb motor area (BA4) and parts of Broca's area (BA45/BA47) within ∼100–350 ms after the word disambiguation point. Importantly, the greater leftward response lateralization for abstract semantics was due to the lesser involvement of the right-hemispheric homologues, not increased left-hemispheric activity. These findings suggest differential region-specific involvement of bilateral sensorimotor systems already in the early automatic stages of processing abstract and concrete action semantics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108800
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024


  • Abstract and concrete semantics
  • IFG
  • Lateralization
  • MEG
  • MMN
  • Motor cortex


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