Nature Reviews Neuroscience 11, 351-360 (May 2010) | doi:10.1038/nrn2811

OpinionActive perception: sensorimotor circuits as a cortical basis for language

Friedemann Pulvermüller1 & Luciano Fadiga2  About the authors


Action and perception are functionally linked in the brain, but a hotly debated question is whether perception and comprehension of stimuli depend on motor circuits. Brain language mechanisms are ideal for addressing this question. Neuroimaging investigations have found specific motor activations when subjects understand speech sounds, word meanings and sentence structures. Moreover, studies involving transcranial magnetic stimulation and patients with lesions affecting inferior frontal regions of the brain have shown contributions of motor circuits to the comprehension of phonemes, semantic categories and grammar. These data show that language comprehension benefits from frontocentral action systems, indicating that action and perception circuits are interdependent.

Author affiliations

  1. Friedemann Pulvermller is at the Medical Research Council, Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, 15 Chaucer Road, Cambridge, CB2 2EF, UK.
  2. Luciano Fadiga is at the University of Ferrara, Department of Human Physiology, via Fossato di Mortara 17/19, 44100 Ferrara, Italy, and the Italian Institute of Technology, via Morego 30, 16163, Genova, Italy.

Published online 9 April 2010


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