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What brain imaging can tell us about embodied meaning

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journal contribution
posted on 01.01.2008 by Marcel Just
Brain imaging studies of la nguage processing (using fMRI) can indicate under what circumstances the embodied aspects of language representations become activated. In particular, the processing of language is distributed across a number of cortical centers, including not only classic language areas in association cortex (which might be involved in symbolic processing) , but also sensory and motor areas. A set of fMRI studies on visual imagery in sentence comprehension reveals both the perceptual-motor and the symbolic aspects of brain function that underlie language processing. Moreover, they indicate some of the conditions under which perceptual or motor representations are most likely to be activated. Another set of studies on word comprehension indicates that the neural signature of certain concrete semantic categories (tools and dwellings) and individual category exemplars can be identified by machine learning algorithms operating on the fMRI data, and that perceptual and motor representations constitute part of the signature.