A new review explores the different areas of the brain that process the meaning of concrete and abstract concepts. The article is published ahead of print in the Journal of Neurophysiology (JNP).
The words that make up our language can be divided into two categories of concepts: concrete and abstract. Concrete words refer to things that exist in reality (e.g., animals, books, food) and that are experienced through the five senses. Abstract words (e.g., love, fear) tend to be more emotionally charged, not experienced through the senses and defined through other associated words rather than physical features. "Although it is clear that different brain areas are involved in semantic processing of abstract and concrete words, it is still a matter of debate which brain areas encode the different types of information underlying the meaning of abstract and concrete words," wrote Maria Montefinese, PhD, author of the review.
Montefinese analyzed three studies that identified and observed specific regions of the brain that organize abstract and concrete concepts. The volunteers in all of the studies were assigned language-related tasks while undergoing imaging tests of the brain:
"Together, these studies shed new light on how abstract and concrete concepts are represented in the brain [across] different languages," Montefinese wrote. This research helps identify a "left-lateralized semantic network" that promotes better understanding of word-meaning structure in the brain.
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