A neuroanatomical examination of embodied cognition: Semantic generation to action-related stimuli

Carrie Esopenko, Layla Gould, Jacqueline Cummine, Gordon Sarty, Naila Kuhlmann, Ron Borowsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The theory of embodied cognition postulates that the brain represents semantic knowledge as a function of the interaction between the body and the environment. The goal of our research was to provide a neuroanatomical examination of embodied cognition using action-related pictures and words. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine whether there were shared and/or unique regions of activation between an ecologically valid semantic generation task and a motor task in the parietal-frontocentral network (PFN), as a function of stimulus format (pictures versus words) for two stimulus types (hand and foot). Unlike other methods for neuroimaging analyses involving subtractive logic or conjoint analyses, this method first isolates shared and unique regions of activation within-participants before generating an averaged map. The results demonstrated shared activation between the semantic generation and motor tasks, which was organized somatotopically in the PFN, as well as unique activation for the semantic generation tasks in proximity to the hand or foot motor cortex. We also found unique and shared regions of activation in the PFN as a function of stimulus format (pictures versus words). These results further elucidate embodied cognition in that they show that brain regions activated during actual motor movements were also activated when an individual verbally generates action-related semantic information. Disembodied cognition theories and limitations are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number84
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberMARCH 2012
StatePublished - Mar 25 2012
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


  • Action-related
  • Embodied cognition
  • Pictures
  • Semantic generation
  • Words
  • fMRI


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