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Feel between the Lines: Implied emotion from combinatorial semantics

Lai, V. T., Willems, R. M., & Hagoort, P. (2015). Feel between the Lines: Implied emotion from combinatorial semantics. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 27(8), 1528-1541. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_00798.
This study investigated the brain regions for the comprehension of implied emotion in sentences. Participants read negative sentences without negative words, for example, “The boy fell asleep and never woke up again,” and their neutral counterparts “The boy stood up and grabbed his bag.” This kind of negative sentence allows us to examine implied emotion derived at the sentence level, without associative emotion coming from word retrieval. We found that implied emotion in sentences, relative to neutral sentences, led to activation in some emotion-related areas, including the medial prefrontal cortex, the amygdala, and the insula, as well as certain language-related areas, including the inferior frontal gyrus, which has been implicated in combinatorial processing. These results suggest that the emotional network involved in implied emotion is intricately related to the network for combinatorial processing in language, supporting the view that sentence meaning is more than simply concatenating the meanings of its lexical building blocks.
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