Dissociation and association of the embodied representation of tool-use verbs and hand verbs: An fMRI study

Jie Yang*, Hua Shu, Yanchao Bi, Youyi Liu, Xiaoyi Wang

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    22 Citations (Scopus)


    Embodied semantic theories suppose that representation of word meaning and actual sensory-motor processing are implemented in overlapping systems. According to this view, association and dissociation of different word meaning should correspond to dissociation and association of the described sensory-motor processing. Previous studies demonstrate that although tool-use actions and hand actions have overlapping neural substrates, tool-use actions show greater activations in frontal-parietal-temporal regions that are responsible for motor control and tool knowledge processing. In the present study, we examined the association and the dissociation of the semantic representation of tool-use verbs and hand action verbs. Chinese verbs describing tool-use or hand actions without tools were included, and a passive reading task was employed. All verb conditions showed common activations in areas of left middle frontal gyrus, left inferior frontal gyrus (BA 44/45) and left inferior parietal lobule relative to rest, and all conditions showed significant effects in premotor areas within the mask of hand motion effects. Contrasts between tool-use verbs and hand verbs demonstrated that tool verbs elicited stronger activity in left superior parietal lobule, left middle frontal gyrus and left posterior middle temporal gyrus. Additionally, psychophysiological interaction analyses demonstrated that tool verbs indicated greater connectivity among these regions. These results suggest that the brain regions involved in tool-use action processing also play more important roles in tool-use verb processing and that similar systems may be responsible for word meaning representation and actual sensory-motor processing.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)167-174
    Number of pages8
    JournalBrain and Language
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011


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