Abstract: The ‘‘overlapping systems'' theory of language function argues that linguistic meaning construction crucially relies on contextual information provided by ‘‘nonlinguistic'' cognitive systems, such as perception and memory. This study examines whether linguistic processing of spatial relations established by reading sentences call on the same posterior parietal neural system involved in processing spatial relations set up through visual input. Subjects read simple sentences, which presented two agents in relation to each other, and were subsequently asked to evaluate spatial (e.g., ‘‘Was he turned towards her?'') and equally concrete nonspatial content (e.g., ‘‘Was he older than her?''). We found that recall of the spatial content relative to the nonspatial content resulted in higher BOLD response in a dorsoposterior network of brain regions, most significantly in precuneus, strikingly overlapping a network previously shown to be involved in recall of spatial aspects of images depicting similar scenarios. This supports a neurocognitive model of language function, where sentences establish meaning by interacting with the perceptual and working memory networks of the brain.
Human Brain Mapping, 2008, Vol 29, Issue 4, p. 524-532