Neural correlates of instrumentality
Previous clinical research has shown the positive effect of instrumentality on verb retrieval and access in individuals with aphasia. Performance on instrumental verbs incorporating an obligatory tool into their conceptual representation (e.g. to cut) is more accurate as compared to non-instrumental verbs for which a tool is not required to perform the action (e.g. to tie). Functionally, this effect was attributed to richer conceptual representations of instrumental verbs facilitating verb lemma activation. Seeking for the neural correlates of the differences between instrumental and non-instrumental verbs, in this project we investigate the effect of verb instrumentality on brain activation in neurologically intact individuals without language impairment. Seventeen native German speakers performed an object-verb matching task with instrumental and non-instrumental verbs in an fMRI experiment. The preliminary results suggest that processing non-instrumental verbs requires extra neural resources involving both frontal and temporal language-related areas of the left hemisphere, which are usually compromised in brain-damaged individuals with aphasia and thus result in worse performance on non-instrumental than on instrumental verbs. The project is conducted in collaboration with Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany.
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