News vom 30.10.2016
The recognition of action-related sounds and words activates motor regions, reflecting the semantic grounding of these symbols in action information; in addition, motor cortex exerts causal influences on sound perception and language comprehension. However, proponents of classic symbolic theories still dispute the role of modality-preferential systems such as the motor cortex in the semantic processing of meaningful stimuli. To clarify whether the motor system carries semantic processes, we investigated neurophysiological indexes of semantic relationships between action-related sounds and words. Event-related potentials revealed that action-related words produced significantly larger stimulus-evoked (Mismatch Negativity-like) and predictive brain responses (Readiness Potentials) when presented in body-part-incongruent sound contexts (e.g., “kiss” in footstep sound context; “kick” in whistle context) than in body-part-congruent contexts, a pattern reminiscent of neurophysiological correlates of semantic priming. Cortical generators of the semantic relatedness effect were localized in areas traditionally associated with semantic memory, including left inferior frontal cortex and temporal pole, and, crucially, in motor areas, where body-part congruency of action sound–word relationships was indexed by a somatotopic pattern of activation. As our results show neurophysiological manifestations of action-semantic priming in the motor cortex, they prove semantic processing in the motor system and thus in a modality-preferential system of the human brain.
Grisoni, L., Dreyer, F., & Pulvermüller, F. (2016) Somatotopic semantic priming and prediction in the motor system. Cerebral Cortex, 26(5), 2353-2366. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhw026