fMRI Evidence for Modality-Specific Processing of Conceptual Knowledge on Six Modalities

Simmons, W.K., Pecher, D., Hamann, S.B., Zeelenberg, R. and Barsalou, L.W. (2003) fMRI Evidence for Modality-Specific Processing of Conceptual Knowledge on Six Modalities. In: Meeting of the Society for Cognitive Neuroscience, New York, NY, USA, Mar 2003,

112685.pdf - Accepted Version



Traditional theories assume that amodal representations, such as feature lists and semantic networks, represent conceptual knowledge about the world. According to this view, the sensory, motor, and introspective states that arise during perception and action are irrelevant to representing knowledge. Instead the conceptual system lies outside modality-specific systems and operates according to different principles. Increasingly, however, researchers report that modality-specific systems become active during purely conceptual tasks, suggesting that these systems play central roles in representing knowledge (for a review, see Martin, 2001, Handbook of Functional Neuroimaging of Cognition). In particular, researchers report that the visual system becomes active while processing visual properties, and that the motor system becomes active while processing action properties. The present study corroborates and extends these findings. During fMRI, subjects verified whether or not properties could potentially be true of concepts (e.g., BLENDER-loud). Subjects received only linguistic stimuli, and nothing was said about using imagery. Highly related false properties were used on false trials to block word association strategies (e.g., BUFFALOwinged). To assess the full extent of the modality-specific hypothesis, properties were verified on each of six modalities. Examples include GEMSTONE-glittering (vision), BLENDER-loud (audition), FAUCET-turned (motor), MARBLE-cool (touch), CUCUMBER-bland (taste), and SOAP-perfumed (smell). Neural activity during property verification was compared to a lexical decision baseline. For all six sets of the modalityspecific properties, significant activation was observed in the respective neural system. Finding modality-specific processing across six modalities contributes to the growing conclusion that knowledge is grounded in modality-specific systems of the brain.

Item Type:Conference Proceedings
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Barsalou, Professor Lawrence
Authors: Simmons, W.K., Pecher, D., Hamann, S.B., Zeelenberg, R., and Barsalou, L.W.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Psychology
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2003 The Authors
Publisher Policy:Reproduced with the permission of the authors

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