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Brain Lang. 2009 Nov;111(2):114-24. doi: 10.1016/j.bandl.2009.08.006. Epub 2009 Sep 24.

Differences in task demands influence the hemispheric lateralization and neural correlates of metaphor.

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Center for Brain Health, University of Texas at Dallas, Frances and Mildred Goad Building, 2200 West Mockingbird Lane, Dallas, TX 75235, USA.


This study investigated metaphor comprehension in the broader context of task-difference effects and manipulation of processing difficulty. We predicted that right hemisphere recruitment would show greater specificity to processing difficulty rather than metaphor comprehension. Previous metaphor processing studies have established that the left inferior frontal gyrus strongly correlates with metaphor comprehension but there has been controversy about whether right hemisphere (RH) involvement is specific for metaphor comprehension. Functional MRI data were recorded from healthy subjects who read novel metaphors, conventional metaphors, definition-like sentences, or literal sentences. We investigated metaphor processing in contexts where semantic judgment or imagery modulates linguistic judgment. Our findings support the position that the type of task rather than figurative language processing per se modulates the left inferior gyrus (LIFG). RH involvement was more influenced by processing difficulty and less by the novelty or figurativity of linguistic expressions. Our results suggest that figurative language processing depends upon the effects of task-type and processing difficulty on imaging results.

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