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Active perception: sensorimotor circuits as a cortical basis for language

In their recent paper in Nature Reviews Neuroscience, Cambridge Neuroscientist Professor Friedemann Pulvermüller (left) from the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit and Luciano Fadiga at the University Ferrara address the much discussed question of whether speech-language comprehension depends on cortical sensorimotor circuits.

It appears that the meaning of words and sentences when processed in the brain is not entirely hidden. Cambridge researchers had previously demonstrated that, when understanding action words and sentences, the sensorimotor system of the brain becomes engaged and that such activation is so specific that it distinguishes the comprehension of "She grasps the ball" from "She kicks the ball". However, it had not been clear to what degree such sensorimotor activation is critical for perception and understanding.

The authors of this paper reviewed data from neuroimaging, brain stimulation, lesion and computational studies. They conclude that action and perception circuits have interdependent roles in language comprehension.

These insights impact cognitive theories and clinical-translational research: as language and action systems are functionally interwoven, these systems can facilitate each other, opening new perspectives on language therapy after stroke.

For a link to the research article please click here.

Reference: Pulvermuller, F., & Fadiga, L. (May, 2010). Active perception: sensorimotor circuits as a cortical basis for language. Nat Rev Neurosci, 11(5), 351-360. nce.

Posted on 05/05/2010

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