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Semantic priming in the motor cortex: Evidence from combined repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation and event-related potential

Author(s): Jan-Rouke Kuipers, Martijn van Koningsbruggen, Guillaume Thierry

Reading action verbs is associated with activity in the motor cortices involved in performing the corresponding actions. Here, we present new evidence that the motor cortex is involved in semantic processing of bodily action verbs. In contrast to previous studies, we used a direct, nonbehavioural index of semantic processing after repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). Participants saw pairs of hand-related (e.g. to grab-to point) or mouth-related (e.g. to speak-to sing) verbs, whereas semantic priming was assessed using event-related potentials. Presentation of the first verb coincided with rTMS over the participant's cortical-left hand area and event-related brain potentials were analysed time-locked to the presentation onset of the second verb. Semantic integration - indexed by the N400 brain potential - was impaired for hand-related but not for mouth-related verb pairs after rTMS. This finding provides strong evidence that the motor cortex is involved in semantic encoding of action verbs, and supports the 'embodied semantics' hypothesis.

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ISBN: 0959-4965
Publication Year: 2013
Periodical: Neuroreport
Periodical Number: 12
Volume: 24
Pages: 646-651
Author Address: