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Journal Article

Gesture's body orientation modulates the N400 for visual sentences primed by gestures


Muralikrishnan,  R.
Scientific Services, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;

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He, Y., Luell, S., Muralikrishnan, R., Straube, B., & Nagels, A. (2020). Gesture's body orientation modulates the N400 for visual sentences primed by gestures. Human Brain Mapping, 41(17), 4901-4911. doi:10.1002/hbm.25166.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-1E36-C
Body orientation of gesture entails social‐communicative intention, and may thus influence how gestures are perceived and comprehended together with auditory speech during face‐to‐face communication. To date, despite the emergence of neuroscientific literature on the role of body orientation on hand action perception, limited studies have directly investigated the role of body orientation in the interaction between gesture and language. To address this research question, we carried out an electroencephalography (EEG) experiment presenting to participants (n = 21) videos of frontal and lateral communicative hand gestures of 5 s (e.g., raising a hand), followed by visually presented sentences that are either congruent or incongruent with the gesture (e.g., “the mountain is high/low…”). Participants underwent a semantic probe task, judging whether a target word is related or unrelated to the gesture‐sentence event. EEG results suggest that, during the perception phase of handgestures, while both frontal and lateral gestures elicited a power decrease in both the alpha (8–12 Hz) and the beta (16–24 Hz) bands, lateral versus frontal gestures elicited reduced power decrease in the beta band, source‐located to the medial prefrontal cortex. For sentence comprehension, at the critical word whose meaning is congruent/incongruent with the gesture prime, frontal gestures elicited an N400 effect for gesture‐sentence incongruency. More importantly, this incongruency effect was significantly reduced for lateral gestures. These findings suggest that body orientation plays an important role in gesture perception, and that its inferred social‐communicative intention may influence gesture‐language interaction at semantic level.