Apr 20, 2020

A shared neural substrate for action verbs and observed actions in human posterior parietal cortex.

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Tyson AflaloR. A. Andersen


High-level sensory and motor cortical areas are activated when processing the meaning of language, but it is unknown whether, and how, words share a neural substrate with corresponding sensorimotor representations. We recorded from single neurons in human posterior parietal cortex (PPC) while participants viewed action verbs and corresponding action videos from multiple views. We find that PPC neurons exhibit a common neural substrate for action verbs and observed actions. Further, videos were encoded with mixtures of invariant and idiosyncratic responses across views. Action verbs elicited selective responses from a fraction of these invariant and idiosyncratic neurons, without preference, thus associating with a statistical sampling of the diverse sensory representations related to the corresponding action concept. Controls indicated the results are not the product of visual imagery nor arbitrary learned associations. Our results suggest that language may activate the consolidated visual experience of the reader.

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