Motion-related brain activity enhanced by motion representation during metaphor understanding


Previous neuroimaging studies have suggested the involvement of motor-related brain regions during semantic processing of action-related idioms and fictive motion sentences. However, it remains unclear if such regions are also involved in understanding of metaphorical expressions. Because metaphor understanding requires abstract semantic manipulations and elaborated feature mapping, one possibility remains that it involves more semantic processing implicated in fronto-temporal regions. On the other hand, due to the conspicuous nature of active items, it may enhance representation of motion and actions, resulting in increased activations in motor-related brain regions. The current fMRI study tested these hypotheses by measuring brain activity while participants made semantic judgments about metaphor sentences involving action and motion. The motion metaphor condition, relative to the motor-related but literal condition, showed prominent brain activity in a fronto-motor region near BA 4. This result suggests that understanding of motion-related metaphor induces direct representation of action and motion.

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