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Neuropsychologia. 2004;42(1):62-70.

Processing concrete words: fMRI evidence against a specific right-hemisphere involvement.

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  • 1Department of Neuropsychology, Max Planck Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, P.O. Box 500 355, D-04303 Leipzig, Germany.


Behavioral, patient, and electrophysiological studies have been taken as support for the assumption that processing of abstract words is confined to the left hemisphere, whereas concrete words are processed also by right-hemispheric brain areas. These are thought to provide additional information from an imaginal representational system, as postulated in the dual-coding theory of memory and cognition. Here we report new event-related fMRI data on the processing of concrete and abstract words in a lexical decision task. While abstract words activated a subregion of the left inferior frontal gyrus (BA 45) more strongly than concrete words, specific activity for concrete words was observed in the left basal temporal cortex. These data as well as data from other neuroimaging studies reviewed here are not compatible with the assumption of a specific right-hemispheric involvement for concrete words. The combined findings rather suggest a revised view of the neuroanatomical bases of the imaginal representational system assumed in the dual-coding theory, at least with respect to word recognition.

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