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  Flexibility in embodied language understanding

Willems, R. M., & Casasanto, D. (2011). Flexibility in embodied language understanding. Frontiers in Psychology, 2, 116. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00116.

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Willems_Flexibility in embodied language understanding_Front_Psych_2011.pdf (Publisher version), 346KB
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Willems_Flexibility in embodied language understanding_Front_Psych_2011.pdf
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2011
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© 2011 Willems and Casasanto. This is an open-access article subject to a non-exclusive license between the authors and Frontiers Media SA, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and other Frontiers conditions are complied with.
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 Creators:
Willems, Roel M.1, 2, Author           
Casasanto, Daniel1, 3, 4, Author           
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1Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, External Organizations, ou_55236              
2Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, UC Berkeley, USA , ou_persistent22              
3Neurobiology of Language Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society, Nijmegen, NL, ou_792551              
4The New School for Social Research, New York, NY, USA, ou_persistent22              

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 Abstract: Do people use sensori-motor cortices to understand language? Here we review neurocognitive studies of language comprehension in healthy adults and evaluate their possible contributions to theories of language in the brain. We start by sketching the minimal predictions that an embodied theory of language understanding makes for empirical research, and then survey studies that have been offered as evidence for embodied semantic representations. We explore four debated issues: first, does activation of sensori-motor cortices during action language understanding imply that action semantics relies on mirror neurons? Second, what is the evidence that activity in sensori-motor cortices plays a functional role in understanding language? Third, to what extent do responses in perceptual and motor areas depend on the linguistic and extra-linguistic context? And finally, can embodied theories accommodate language about abstract concepts? Based on the available evidence, we conclude that sensori-motor cortices are activated during a variety of language comprehension tasks, for both concrete and abstract language. Yet, this activity depends on the context in which perception and action words are encountered. Although modality-specific cortical activity is not a sine qua non of language processing even for language about perception and action, sensori-motor regions of the brain appear to make functional contributions to the construction of meaning, and should therefore be incorporated into models of the neurocognitive architecture of language.

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Language(s): eng - English
 Dates: 201020112011
 Publication Status: Published online
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 Rev. Type: Peer
 Identifiers: DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00116
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Title: Frontiers in Psychology
Source Genre: Journal
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Pages: - Volume / Issue: 2 Sequence Number: - Start / End Page: 116 Identifier: -