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Brain dynamics in the comprehension of action-related language. A time-frequency analysis of mu rhythms

Moreno, I., De Vega, M., León, I., Bastiaansen, M. C. M., Lewis, A. G., & Magyari, L. (2015). Brain dynamics in the comprehension of action-related language. A time-frequency analysis of mu rhythms. Neuroimage, 109, 50-62. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.01.018.
EEG mu rhythms (8-13Hz) recorded at fronto-central electrodes are generally considered as markers of motor cortical activity in humans, because they are modulated when participants perform an action, when they observe another’s action or even when they imagine performing an action. In this study, we analyzed the time-frequency (TF) modulation of mu rhythms while participants read action language (“You will cut the strawberry cake”), abstract language (“You will doubt the patient´s argument”), and perceptive language (“You will notice the bright day”). The results indicated that mu suppression at fronto-central sites is associated with action language rather than with abstract or perceptive language. Also, the largest difference between conditions occurred quite late in the sentence, while reading the first noun, (contrast Action vs. Abstract), or the second noun following the action verb (contrast Action vs. Perceptive). This suggests that motor activation is associated with the integration of words across the sentence beyond the lexical processing of the action verb. Source reconstruction localized mu suppression associated with action sentences in premotor cortex (BA 6). The present study suggests (1) that the understanding of action language activates motor networks in the human brain, and (2) that this activation occurs online based on semantic integration across multiple words in the sentence.
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The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

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