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The Neural Correlates of Embodied Cognition in Comprehension and Imagination

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The premise of the embodied cognition hypothesis is that cognitive processes require emotion, sensory, and motor systems in the brain, rather than using arbitrary symbols divorced from sensorimotor systems. The

The premise of the embodied cognition hypothesis is that cognitive processes require emotion, sensory, and motor systems in the brain, rather than using arbitrary symbols divorced from sensorimotor systems. The hypothesis explains many of the mechanisms of mental simulation or imagination and how they facilitate comprehension of concepts. Some forms of embodied processing can be measured using electroencephalography (EEG), in a particular waveform known as the mu rhythm (8-13 Hz) in the sensorimotor cortex of the brain. Power in the mu band is suppressed (or de-synchronized) when an individual performs an action, as well as when the individual imagines performing the action, thus mu suppression measures embodied imagination. An important question however is whether the sensorimotor cortex involvement while reading, as measured by mu suppression, is part of the comprehension of what is read or if it is arises after comprehension has taken place. To answer this question, participants first took the Gates-MacGinitie reading comprehension test. Then, mu-suppression was measured while participants read experimental materials. The degree of mu-suppression while reading verbs correlated .45 with their score on the Gates-MacGinitie test. This correlation strongly suggests that the sensorimotor system involvement while reading action sentences is part of the comprehension process rather than being an aftereffect.

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  • 2016-05