Neuroanatomical distribution of five semantic components of verbs: evidence from fMRI

Brain Lang. 2008 Oct;107(1):16-43. doi: 10.1016/j.bandl.2007.09.003. Epub 2007 Oct 30.


The Simulation Framework, also known as the Embodied Cognition Framework, maintains that conceptual knowledge is grounded in sensorimotor systems. To test several predictions that this theory makes about the neural substrates of verb meanings, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan subjects' brains while they made semantic judgments involving five classes of verbs-specifically, Running verbs (e.g., run, jog, walk), Speaking verbs (e.g., shout, mumble, whisper), Hitting verbs (e.g., hit, poke, jab), Cutting verbs (e.g., cut, slice, hack), and Change of State verbs (e.g., shatter, smash, crack). These classes were selected because they vary with respect to the presence or absence of five distinct semantic components-specifically, ACTION, MOTION, CONTACT, CHANGE OF STATE, and TOOL USE. Based on the Simulation Framework, we hypothesized that the ACTION component depends on the primary motor and premotor cortices, that the MOTION component depends on the posterolateral temporal cortex, that the CONTACT component depends on the intraparietal sulcus and inferior parietal lobule, that the CHANGE OF STATE component depends on the ventral temporal cortex, and that the TOOL USE component depends on a distributed network of temporal, parietal, and frontal regions. Virtually all of the predictions were confirmed. Taken together, these findings support the Simulation Framework and extend our understanding of the neuroanatomical distribution of different aspects of verb meaning.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / anatomy & histology
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Motor Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Motor Cortex / physiology
  • Nerve Net / anatomy & histology
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Parietal Lobe / anatomy & histology
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology
  • Psycholinguistics / methods
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Reading
  • Semantics*
  • Speech Perception / physiology*
  • Verbal Behavior / physiology*
  • Young Adult