An fMRI Investigation of Feature-Emergence-related Activation within Metaphor Comprehension


Metaphor comprehension involves the generation of novel semantic attributes, especially when a metaphor emphasizes a shared but atypical characteristic of the relevant concepts. The present functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study explores neural activation during the process of attribute generation known as feature emergence. The participants judged whether a presented semantic feature was an appropriate interpretation of a primed metaphor sentence. Two types of features were evaluated: emergent features that are not applicable to the respective concepts and only become salient in a metaphorical context and non-emergent features which are typical characteristics. In contrast to non-emergent features, processing of emergent features mainly involved prefrontal regions of the right hemisphere, including the precentral gyrus. The present results suggest that feature emergence necessitates a shift of semantic attention that drives a novel metaphor interpretation beyond the semantic elaboration implicated within the left prefrontal cortex.

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