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Front Hum Neurosci. 2013 Sep 3;7:526. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00526. eCollection 2013.

The non-stop road from concrete to abstract: high concreteness causes the activation of long-range networks.

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  • 1Center of Excellence "Cognitive Interaction Technology", Bielefeld University Bielefeld, Germany ; Faculty of Linguistics and Literary Science, Experimental Neurolinguistics Group, Bielefeld University Bielefeld, Germany.


Current grounding theories propose that sensory-motor brain systems are not only modulated by the comprehension of concrete but also partly of abstract language. In order to investigate whether concrete or abstract language elicits similar or distinct brain activity, neuronal synchronization patterns were investigated by means of long-range EEG coherence analysis. Participants performed a semantic judgment task with concrete and abstract sentences. EEG coherence between distant electrodes was analyzed in various frequencies before and during sentence processing using a bivariate AR-model with time-varying parameters. The theta frequency band (3-7 Hz) reflected common and different synchronization networks related to working memory processes and memory-related lexico-semantic retrieval during processing of both sentence types. In contrast, the beta1 band (13-18 Hz) showed prominent differences between both sentence types, whereby concrete sentences were associated with higher coherence implicating a more widespread range and intensity of mental simulation processes. The gamma band (35-40 Hz) reflected the sentences' congruency and indicated the more difficult integration of incongruent final nouns into the sentence context. Most importantly, findings support the notion that different cognitive operations during sentence processing are associated with multiple brain oscillations.


EEG frequency; beta; concreteness; embodiment; gamma; language; long-range coherence; theta

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