Functional links between motor and language systems

Authors


Dr Friedemann Pulvermüller, as above.
E-mail: friedemann.pulvermuller@mrc-cbu.cam.ac.uk

Abstract

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was applied to motor areas in the left language-dominant hemisphere while right-handed human subjects made lexical decisions on words related to actions. Response times to words referring to leg actions (e.g. kick) were compared with those to words referring to movements involving the arms and hands (e.g. pick). TMS of hand and leg areas influenced the processing of arm and leg words differentially, as documented by a significant interaction of the factors Stimulation site and Word category. Arm area TMS led to faster arm than leg word responses and the reverse effect, faster lexical decisions on leg than arm words, was present when TMS was applied to leg areas. TMS-related differences between word categories were not seen in control conditions, when TMS was applied to hand and leg areas in the right hemisphere and during sham stimulation. Our results show that the left hemispheric cortical systems for language and action are linked to each other in a category-specific manner and that activation in motor and premotor areas can influence the processing of specific kinds of words semantically related to arm or leg actions. By demonstrating specific functional links between action and language systems during lexical processing, these results call into question modular theories of language and motor functions and provide evidence that the two systems interact in the processing of meaningful information about language and action.

Ancillary