Show Reference: "How neurons make meaning: brain mechanisms for embodied and abstract-symbolic semantics"

How neurons make meaning: brain mechanisms for embodied and abstract-symbolic semantics Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Vol. 17, No. 9. (September 2013), pp. 458-470, doi:10.1016/j.tics.2013.06.004 by Friedemann Pulvermüller
    abstract = {Semantic processing requires distinct neural mechanisms with different brain bases. These include referential, combinatorial, emotional-affective and abstract-symbolic semantics. All semantic processes are grounded; only some are embodied in action and perception. Neural processes of disembodiment are explained by neurobiological principles. How brain structures and neuronal circuits mechanistically underpin symbolic meaning has recently been elucidated by neuroimaging, neuropsychological, and neurocomputational research. Modality-specific 'embodied' mechanisms anchored in sensorimotor systems appear to be relevant, as are 'disembodied' mechanisms in multimodal areas. In this paper, four semantic mechanisms are proposed and spelt out at the level of neuronal circuits: referential semantics, which establishes links between symbols and the objects and actions they are used to speak about; combinatorial semantics, which enables the learning of symbolic meaning from context; emotional-affective semantics, which establishes links between signs and internal states of the body; and abstraction mechanisms for generalizing over a range of instances of semantic meaning. Referential, combinatorial, emotional-affective, and abstract semantics are complementary mechanisms, each necessary for processing meaning in mind and brain.},
    author = {Pulverm\"{u}ller, Friedemann},
    citeulike-article-id = {12566087},
    citeulike-linkout-0 = {},
    doi = {10.1016/j.tics.2013.06.004},
    issn = {13646613},
    journal = {Trends in Cognitive Sciences},
    keywords = {action, embodiment, representations, semantics},
    month = sep,
    number = {9},
    pages = {458--470},
    posted-at = {2014-09-04 16:01:39},
    priority = {2},
    title = {How neurons make meaning: brain mechanisms for embodied and abstract-symbolic semantics},
    url = {},
    volume = {17},
    year = {2013}

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Neural responses to words from different categories activate different networks of brain regions.

The fact that the brain regions activated by (hearing, reading...) certain words correspond to the categories the words belong to (action words for motor areas etc.) suggests semantic grounding in perception and action.

Words from some categories do not activate brain regions which are related to their meaning. The semantics of those words do not seem to be grounded in perception or action. Pulvermüller calls such categories and their neural representations disembodied.

Some abstract, disembodied words seem to activate areas in the brain related to emotional processing. These words may be grounded in emotion.

It seems that the representations of words can be more or less modal ie. words may be more or less abstract and thus more or less grounded in sensory, motor, or emotional areas.