Engagement of the left extrastriate body area during body-part metaphor comprehension

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Abstract

Grounded cognition explanations of metaphor comprehension predict activation of sensorimotor cortices relevant to the metaphor’s source domain. We tested this prediction for body-part metaphors using functional magnetic resonance imaging while participants heard sentences containing metaphorical or literal references to body parts, and comparable control sentences. Localizer scans identified body-part-specific motor, somatosensory and visual cortical regions. Both subject- and item-wise analyses showed that, relative to control sentences, metaphorical but not literal sentences evoked limb metaphor-specific activity in the left extrastriate body area (EBA), paralleling the EBA’s known visual limb-selectivity. The EBA focus exhibited resting-state functional connectivity with ipsilateral semantic processing regions. In some of these regions, the strength of resting-state connectivity correlated with individual preference for verbal processing. Effective connectivity analyses showed that, during metaphor comprehension, activity in some semantic regions drove that in the EBA. These results provide converging evidence for grounding of metaphor processing in domain-specific sensorimotor cortical activity.

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