Fmri shows more blood flow for verbs

I hadn’t heard anyone talk about this here, but the increased blood flow (and thus ostensibly: increased brain activity) for verbs compared to nouns provides some hard, but indirect evidence to the claim that images with actions are more memorable than static images. The other aspects of the study in the video have mnemonic implications as well

Maybe it has to do with the verbs being abstract and not having a… universal association with an image. :thinking:

Interesting study. Thanks for posting it. I wonder what their results would have shown if the test subject was imagining action whenever they encountered a noun. For example, if they gave the word piano and the participant immediately (upon hearing the word) imagined playing the piano–or if they said hammer and the person immediately imagined hammering something.

I think it might have roots in our survival and social instincts. Remembering action probably helps us learn action triggers, so we can be on guard against attackers faster, and recognize different patterns of interpersonal behavior. We also need to remember hand movements for tool making, body motions for hunting, etc. Lots of reasons to be keen on actions, biologically speaking.

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Well, I didn’t see a link to the actually study there, so I can only go what was on the slide in the video and there the verbs were all inflected…

  • eating
  • grazing
  • dining

…rather than shown in their infinitive form…

  • eat
  • graze
  • dine

…so you could also argue that the brain has to do more work do differentiate when the verbs are shown in their “-ing”-form. Essentially, half of the word is the same for all of them in terms of syllables and with the exception of “grazing” even in number of letter, so it might just be the case that the extra activity is due to “removing noise” first.


bit o’ the old google-fu

I wonder about your claim that the gerund form requires more work than the infinitive. It kind of assumes a direct relationship between grammatical classification and neuro visual classification.

You sure that’s the study they’re talking about in the video? They don’t mention anything about increased brain activity. In the [Abstract] they actually say

We carried out two PET studies to determine whether there is any regional specialization for the processing of nouns and verbs. One study used the lexical decision task and the other used a more semantically demanding task, i.e. semantic categorization. We found robust activation of a semantic network extending from left inferior frontal cortex into the inferior temporal lobe, but no differences as a function of word class.

In the [Discussion] section they mention

Effects of word class

The main aim of our imaging studies was to determine whether processing the meaning of nouns and verbs is associated with activation in different cortical regions. We found no consistent evidence for the differential effects of word class; both nouns and verbs activated areas in left inferior frontal and temporal cortex. Thus, although our behavioural data and a number of cognitive studies suggest that nouns are processed more readily than verbs, this processing advantage does not appear to be correlated with differential neural activation. That is, differences in the acquisition and processing of nouns and verbs do not seem to be correlated with differential neural representation. Moreover, the power analyses showed that our experimental paradigms, especially the semantic categorization task, were sufficiently sensitive to have detected small differences in activation if they had been present.

Seems like that study in interested in something else; namely, different regions activated when processing nouns and verbs. They mention the research up to that point in the [Introduction} as well

the claim for regional specialization, with the left inferior prefrontal cortex being specialized for verbs and left temporal cortex specialized for nouns (Petersen et al., 1988; Perani et al., 1999). However, the results are, in fact, very mixed and do not support this straightforward dissociation unequivocally.

[…] verbs produced additional activation over nouns in the left dorsolateral frontal cortex, superior parietal and anterior and middle temporal lobes. Other studies, primarily using the verb generation task (e.g. Petersen et al ., 1988; Martin et al ., 1995), do not replicate this finding. Although the initial study by Petersen and colleagues (Petersen et al., 1988) reported additional activation for verbs primarily in the left prefrontal cortex, this region could not be claimed to be specialized for verb processing since, in a subsequent study, the same pattern was obtained in a name generation task (Petersen et al., 1989).

Also, as far as your point about

[…] even though Martin and colleagues found greater activation in left prefrontal cortex when subjects generated action words (verbs) compared with object names, this same region was also activated when colour words (adjectives) were generated

Finally, in their [Conclusion] they state

The results of the two PET studies reported here do not support the claim that nouns are represented in the temporal lobes and verbs in left inferior frontal cortex. Instead, they are more compatible with the alternative hypothesis that the meanings of nouns and verbs are represented within an undifferentiated cortical network which is not divided by category or domain.

It doesn’t appear to me that this study was at all interested with “how much” brain activity but rather “where” brain activity took place… and to answer your question

We won’t know, because the words were actually shown in infinitive form, when you look at the [Appendix]

…also, the nouns where shown in their singular and not in their plural form (as the video suggests.) Lastly, the “target” was the fourth word shown after the initial three “cue” words… seems the only thing we can conclude for sure, is that the initial video you had linked to was done by somebody who’s not too concerned with their content being accurate.

Thanks for the breakdown of the article, I was trying to help you find what you were looking for, but I guess my Google Fu was inadequate.I suggest using Google scholar to find what your looking for. The scholar in question has done a lot of research! For more on verb activity, she has done research on verbs and motor activity in the brain

Here you go Modulation of motor and premotor cortices by actions, action words and action sentences - ScienceDirect

I just read the abstract though so give me a heads up if you find anything neat inside.

As a final point, I wouldn’t be so quick to discredit the teacher because a random stranger is bad at googling. It would have been real nice if she had cited the actual article she’s referring to though…

Oh, this could be it @bjoern.gumboldt !! And they mention the inflecting explicitly: Neural processing of nouns and verbs: the role of inflectional morphology - ScienceDirect

It seems you may have been on the right track regarding inflection having a higher neural load

Anyone have university access?