Article

Where is the action? Action sentence processing in Parkinson's disease

Department of Neurology, Medical College of Wisconsin. Electronic address: .
Neuropsychologia (Impact Factor: 3.45). 04/2013; 51(8). DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2013.04.008
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT According to an influential view of conceptual representation, action concepts are understood through motoric simulations, involving motor networks of the brain. A stronger version of this embodied account suggests that even figurative uses of action words (e.g., grasping the concept) are understood through motoric simulations. We investigated these claims by assessing whether Parkinson's disease (PD), a disorder affecting the motor system, is associated with selective deficits in comprehending action-related sentences. Twenty PD patients and 21 age-matched controls performed a sentence comprehension task, where sentences belonged to one of four conditions: literal action, non-idiomatic metaphoric action, idiomatic action, and abstract. The same verbs (referring to hand/arm actions) were used in the three action-related conditions. Patients, but not controls, were slower to respond to literal and idiomatic action than to abstract sentences. These results indicate that sensory-motor systems play a functional role in semantic processing, including processing of figurative action language.

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Available from: Leonardo Fernandino, Jul 16, 2015
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    • "This embodiment of language in action has been reported in healthy elderly adults (Dijkstra et al., 2004), as well as in patients with AD (De Scalzi et al., 2014) since they rely on the necessary simulation of the motor components involved in language to understand it. It may also explain how motor impairments in PD are associated with altered language comprehension of literal and symbolic action related/based sentences (Fernandino et al., 2013). "
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    • "The participants were asked to indicate as quickly and as accurately as possible whether the target was a word or not by pressing one of two response buttons. The participants were given four seconds to respond (which differs from Fernandino et al. (2013b), who provided unlimited time for response), after which the next trial started and a missing response was recorded. The prime was the same as the target word/pseudoword in capital letters for half of the stimuli (identity prime), and a consonant string also in capital letters for the other half (consonant string prime) as control. "
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    • "Hence the possibility of brief access to motor systems for action verbs even in the idiomatic context cannot be ruled out. Indeed, Fernandino et al. (2013) found small but significant impairment for action idioms in Parkinson's patients relative to abstract sentences. Nonetheless, by showing clear modulation of activation for different types of sentences involving the same action verbs, the results demonstrate the flexible and contextsensitive nature of the semantic system. "
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