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Category: Cortex – Journal

When embodiment breaks down: Language deficits as novel avenues into movement disorders

Published in: Cortex, Volume 100, March 2018, 1-7 Editorial Brief “If cognition is broadly shaped by an interplay of embodied mechanisms (Barsalou, 1999; Gallese & Lakoff, 2005; Gentsch, Weber, Synofzik, Vosgerau, & Schutz-Bosbach, 2016; Pulvermüller, 2005; Zwaan, 2014), then cognitive deficits could be profitably reinterpreted as disruptions of embodiment (Birba et al., 2017). Despite its simplicity and obviousness, this straightforward implication has not been systematically assessed in the literature, let alone with a focus on specific target populations featuring systematic disturbances in circumscribed higher-order domains. The present Special Issue seeks to bridge such a gap by delving into the intimate links between movement disorders… Read More

What can autism teach us about the role of sensorimotor systems in higher cognition? New clues from studies on language, action semantics, and abstract emotional concept processing

Published in: Cortex, Volume 100, March 2018, 149-190 Abstract “Within the neurocognitive literature there is much debate about the role of the motor system in language, social communication and conceptual processing. We suggest, here, that autism spectrum conditions (ASC) may afford an excellent test case for investigating and evaluating contemporary neurocognitive models, most notably a neurobiological theory of action perception integration where widely-distributed cell assemblies linking neurons in action and perceptual brain regions act as the building blocks of many higher cognitive functions. We review a literature of functional motor abnormalities in ASC, following this with discussion of their neural correlates and aberrancies… Read More

When syntax meets action: Brain potential evidence of overlapping between language and motor sequencing

Published in: Cortex, Volume 100, March 2018, 40-51 Abstract “This study aims to extend the embodied cognition approach to syntactic processing. The hypothesis is that the brain resources to plan and perform motor sequences are also involved in syntactic processing. To test this hypothesis, Event-Related brain Potentials (ERPs) were recorded while participants read sentences with embedded relative clauses, judging for their acceptability (half of the sentences contained a subject-verb morphosyntactic disagreement). The sentences, previously divided into three segments, were self-administered segment-by-segment in two different sequential manners: linear or non-linear. Linear self-administration consisted of successively pressing three buttons with three consecutive fingers in the… Read More

Abstract semantics in the motor system? – An event-related fMRI study on passive reading of semantic word categories carrying abstract emotional and mental meaning

Published in: Cortex, Volume 100, March 2018, 52-70 Abstract “Previous research showed that modality-preferential sensorimotor areas are relevant for processing concrete words used to speak about actions. However, whether modality-preferential areas also play a role for abstract words is still under debate. Whereas recent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies suggest an involvement of motor cortex in processing the meaning of abstract emotion words as, for example, ‘love’, other non-emotional abstract words, in particular ‘mental words’, such as ‘thought’ or ‘logic’, are believed to engage ‘amodal’ semantic systems only. In the present event-related fMRI experiment, subjects passively read abstract emotional and mental nouns along with… Read More

From meaning to categorization: The hierarchical recruitment of brain circuits selective for action verbs

Published in: Cortex, Volume 100, March 2018, 95-100 Abstract “Sensorimotor and affective brain systems are known to be involved in language processing. However, to date it is still debated whether this involvement is a crucial step of semantic processing or, on the contrary, it is dependent on the specific context or strategy adopted to solve a task at hand. The present electroencephalographic (EEG) study is aimed at investigating which brain circuits are engaged when processing written verbs. By aligning event-related potentials (ERPs) both to the verb onset and to the motor response indexing the accomplishment of a semantic task of categorization, we were… Read More

The neural exploitation hypothesis and its implications for an embodied approach to language and cognition: Insights from the study of action verbs processing and motor disorders in Parkinson’s disease

Published in: Cortex, Volume 100, March 2018, 215-225 Abstract “As it is widely known, Parkinson’s disease is clinically characterized by motor disorders such as the loss of voluntary movement control, including resting tremor, postural instability, and bradykinesia (Bocanegra et al., 2015; Helmich, Hallett, Deuschl, Toni, & Bloem, 2012; Liu et al., 2006; Rosin, Topka, & Dichgans, 1997). In the last years, many empirical studies (e.g., Bocanegra et al., 2015; Spadacenta et al., 2012) have also shown that the processing of action verbs is selectively impaired in patients affected by this neurodegenerative disorder. In the light of these findings, it has been suggested that Parkinson disorder can be interpreted within an embodied cognition framework… Read More

Is procedural memory enhanced in Tourette syndrome? Evidence from a sequence learning task

Published in: Cortex, Volume 100, March 2018, 84-94 Abstract “Procedural memory, which is rooted in the basal ganglia, underlies the learning and processing of numerous automatized motor and cognitive skills, including in language. Not surprisingly, disorders with basal ganglia abnormalities have been found to show impairments of procedural memory. However, brain abnormalities could also lead to atypically enhanced function. Tourette syndrome (TS) is a candidate for enhanced procedural memory, given previous findings of enhanced TS processing of grammar, which likely depends on procedural memory. We comprehensively examined procedural learning, from memory formation to retention, in children with TS and typically developing (TD) children,… Read More

Production of verbs related to body movement in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Parkinson’s Disease (PD)

Published in: Cortex, Volume 100, March 2018, 127-139 Abstract “Theories of grounded cognition propose that action verb knowledge relies in part on motor processing regions, including premotor cortex. Accordingly, impaired action verb knowledge in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is thought to be due to motor system degeneration. Upper motor neuron disease in ALS degrades the motor cortex and related pyramidal motor system, while disease in PD is centered in the basal ganglia and can spread to frontostriatal areas that are important to language functioning. These anatomical distinctions in disease may yield subtle differences in the action verb impairment between patient groups. Here we compare verbs where the… Read More

A systematic linguistic profile of spontaneous narrative speech in pre-symptomatic and early stage Huntington’s disease

Published in: Cortex, Volume 100, March 2018, 71-83 Abstract “Cognitive decline accompanying the clinically more salient motor symptoms of Huntington’s disease (HD) has been widely noted and can precede motor symptoms onset. Less clear is how such decline bears on language functions in everyday life, though a small number of experimental studies have revealed difficulties with the application of rule-based aspects of language in early stages of the disease. Here we aimed to determine whether there is a systematic linguistic profile that characterizes spontaneous narrative speech in both pre-manifest and/or early manifest HD, and how it is related to striatal degeneration and neuropsychological profiles. Twenty-eight early-stage patients… Read More