The distinction between nouns and verbs is a language universal. Yet, functional neuroimaging studies comparing noun and verb processing have yielded inconsistent findings, ranging from a complete frontal(verb)–temporal(noun) dichotomy to a complete overlap in activation patterns. The current study addressed the debate about neural distinctions between nouns and verbs by conducting an activation likelihood estimation (ALE) meta-analysis of probabilistic cytoarchitectonic maps. Two levels of analysis were conducted: simple effects (Verbs vs. Baseline, Nouns vs. Baseline), and direct comparisons (Verbs vs. Nouns, Nouns vs. Verbs). Nouns were uniquely associated with a left medial temporal cluster (BA37). Activation foci for verbs included extensive inferior frontal (BA44–47) and mid-temporal (BA22, 21) regions in the left hemisphere. These findings confirm that the two grammatical classes have distinct neural architecture in supra-modal brain regions. Further, nouns and verbs overlapped in a small left lateral inferior temporal activation cluster (BA37), which is a region for modality-independent, grammatical class-independent lexical representations. These findings are most consistent with the view that as one acquires language, linguistic representations for a lexical category shift from the modality specific cortices which represent prototypical members of that category (e.g., motion for verbs) to abstract amodal representations in close proximity to modality specific cortices.
- Broca's area
- fusiform gyrus
- middle temporal
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
- Clinical Neurology