Cortical differentiation for nouns and verbs depends on grammatical makers

Centre for Speech, Language, and the Brain, Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 4.69). 09/2008; 20(8):1381-9. DOI: 10.1162/jocn.2008.20095
Source: DBLP

ABSTRACT Here we address the contentious issue of how nouns and verbs are represented in the brain. The co-occurrence of noun and verb deficits with damage to different neural regions has led to the view that they are differentially represented in the brain. Recent neuroimaging evidence and inconsistent lesion-behavior associations challenge this view. We have suggested that nouns and verbs are not differentially represented in the brain, but that different patterns of neural activity are triggered by the different linguistic functions carried by nouns and verbs. We test these claims in a functional magnetic resonance imaging study using homophones -- words which function grammatically as nouns or verbs but have the same form and meaning -- ensuring that any neural differences reflect differences in grammatical function. Words were presented as single stems and in phrases in which each homophone was preceded by an article to create a noun phrase (NP) or a pronoun to create a verb phrase (VP), thus establishing the word's functional linguistic role. Activity for single-word homophones was not modulated by their frequency of usage as a noun or verb. In contrast, homophones marked as verbs by appearing in VPs elicited greater activity in the left posterior middle temporal gyrus (LpMTG) compared to homophones marked as nouns by occurring in NPs. Neuropsychological patients with grammatical deficits had lesions which overlapped with the greater LpMTG activity found for VPs. These results suggest that nouns and verbs do not invariably activate different neural regions; rather, differential cortical activity depends on the extent to which their different grammatical functions are engaged.

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    • "Modulating the inflectional model by verb dominance reveals how inflectional computations interact with the representational and combinatorial differences between verbs and nouns. Verbs have more complex lexical representations (argument structure) and carry more weight in grammatical structure building than nouns, as reflected in findings that they engage combinatorial processes more strongly than nouns when put in the appropriate grammatical environments [Longe et al., 2007; Tyler et al., 2008]. These differences emerged more clearly when we separated the activation patterns triggered by inflected verbs and inflected nouns using the dominance-modulated model. "
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    ABSTRACT: Language processing engages large-scale functional networks in both hemispheres. Although it is widely accepted that left perisylvian regions have a key role in supporting complex grammatical compu-tations, patient data suggest that some aspects of grammatical processing could be supported bilaterally. We investigated the distribution and the nature of grammatical computations across language processing networks by comparing two types of combinatorial grammatical sequences—inflectionally complex words and minimal phrases—and contrasting them with grammatically simple words. Novel multivariate analy-ses revealed that they engage a coalition of separable subsystems: inflected forms triggered left-lateralized activation, dissociable into dorsal processes supporting morphophonological parsing and ventral, lexically driven morphosyntactic processes. In contrast, simple phrases activated a consistently bilateral pattern of temporal regions, overlapping with inflectional activations in L middle temporal gyrus. These data confirm the role of the left-lateralized frontotemporal network in supporting complex grammatical computations. Critically, they also point to the capacity of bilateral temporal regions to support simple, linear grammati-cal computations. This is consistent with a dual neurobiological framework where phylogenetically older bihemispheric systems form part of the network that supports language function in the modern human, and where significant capacities for language comprehension remain intact even following severe left hemisphere damage. Hum Brain Mapp 00:000–000, 2014. V C 2014 The Authors Human Brain Mapping Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    Human Brain Mapping 03/2015; DOI:10.1002/hbm.22696 · 6.92 Impact Factor
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    • "Yet other studies challenge the motion-specificity claimed by weak and strong embodied approaches above, particularly within posterior temporal regions. Indeed, posterior temporal regions respond to various kinds of linguistic stimuli with or without motion content: abstract mental verbs activate posterior temporal structures overlapping with those active for motion verbs (Bedny et al., 2008; Rodríguez-Ferreiro, Gennari, Davies, & Cuetos, 2011) and noun–verb ambiguous words like hammer more strongly activate these regions when used as verbs, compared to nouns, suggesting a role for verb semantics and inflexional morphology (Gennari et al., 2007; Tyler, Bright, Fletcher, & Stamatakis, 2004; Tyler, Randall, & Stamatakis, 2008). Moreover, these regions also respond to nouns in situations in which processing is difficult, e.g., when deciding which of two nouns is related to a third. "
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    ABSTRACT: Understanding verbs typically activates posterior temporal regions and, in some circumstances, motion perception area V5. However, the nature and role of this activation remains unclear: does language alone indeed activate V5? And are posterior temporal representations modality-specific motion representations, or supra-modal motion-independent event representations? Here, we address these issues by investigating human and object motion sentences compared to corresponding state descriptions. We adopted the blank screen paradigm, which is known to encourage visual imagery, and used a localizer to identify V5 and temporal structures responding to motion. Analyses in each individual brain suggested that language modulated activity in the posterior temporal lobe but not within V5 in most participants. Moreover, posterior temporal structures strongly responded to both motion sentences and human static sentences. These results suggest that descriptive language alone need not recruit V5 and instead engages more schematic event representations in temporal cortex encoding animacy and motion.
    Brain and Language 02/2013; 125(1):94-105. DOI:10.1016/j.bandl.2013.01.008 · 3.31 Impact Factor
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    • " linked to left middle temporal gyrus activation (Longe, Randall, Stamatakis, & Tyler, 2007; Tyler, Randall, & Stamatakis, 2008; Bedny, Caramazza, Grossman, Pascual-Leone, & Saxe, 2008), in others it highlighted a very extensive neural network (Berlingeri et al., 2008), or the same circumscribed brain regions as nouns (Siri et al., 2008). In the abovementioned studies, activation in response to nouns was either unidentifiable (Longe et al., 2007; Tyler et al., 2008) or less robust than to verbs (Berlingeri et al., 2008; Siri et al., 2008). And, in a recent study, noun phrases activated left inferior prefrontal regions more than verbs (Pulvermüller, Cook, & Hauk, 2012). "
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    ABSTRACT: The dissociability of nouns and verbs and of their morphosyntactic operations has been firmly established by lesion data. However, the hypothesis that they are processed by distinct neural substrates is inconsistently supported by neuroimaging studies. We tackled this issue in a silent reading experiment during MEG. Participants silently read noun/verb homonyms in minimal syntactic context: article-noun (NPs), pronoun-verb (VPs) (eg, il ballo/i balli, the dance/the dances; io ballo/tu balli, I dance/you dance). Homonyms allow to rule out prelexical or postlexical nuisance factors – they are orthographically and phonologically identical, but serve different grammatical functions depending on context. Under these experimental conditions, different activity to nouns and verbs can be confidently attributed to representational/ processing distinctions. At the sensor level, three components of event-related magnetic fields were observed for the function word and four for the content word, but Global Field Power (GFP) analysis only showed differences between VPs and NPs at several but very short time windows. By contrast, source level analysis based on Minimum Norm Estimates (MNE) yielded significantly greater activity for VPs in left frontal areas and in a left frontoparietal network at late time windows (380–397 and 393–409 ms). These results are fully consistent with lesion data, and show that verbs and nouns are processed differently in the brain. Frontal and parietal activation to verbs might correspond to morphosyntactic processes and to working memory recruitment (or thematic role assignment), respectively. Findings are consistent with the view that nouns and verbs and their morphosyntactic operations involve at least partially distinct neural substrates. However, they do not entirely rule out that nouns and verbs are processed in a shared neural substrate, and that differences result from greater complexity of verbal morphosyntax.
    Neuropsychologia 01/2013; DOI:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2013.12.018 · 3.45 Impact Factor
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