Deriving meaning: Distinct neural mechanisms for metaphoric, literal, and non-meaningful sentences

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140 Citations (Scopus)


In this study, we used a novel cognitive paradigm and event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (ER-fMRI) to investigate the neural substrates involved in processing three different types of sentences. Participants read either metaphoric (Some surgeons are butchers), literal (Some surgeons are fathers), or non-meaningful sentences (Some surgeons are shelves) and had to decide whether they made sense or not. We demonstrate that processing of the different sentence types relied on distinct neural mechanisms. Activation of the left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG), BA 47, was shared by both non-meaningful and metaphoric sentences but not by literal sentences. Furthermore, activation of the left thalamus appeared to be specifically involved in deriving meaning from metaphoric sentences despite lack of reaction times differences between literals and metaphors. We assign this to the ad hoc concept construction and open-endedness of metaphoric interpretation. In contrast to previous studies, our results do not support the view the right hemispheric is specifically involved in metaphor comprehension. (C) 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)150 - 162
Number of pages13
JournalBrain and Language
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2007


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