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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

November 2009, Vol. 21, No. 11, Pages 2154-2171
(doi: 10.1162/jocn.2008.21171)
© 2008 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Functional Neuroanatomy of Contextual Acquisition of Concrete and Abstract Words
Article PDF (399.23 KB)

The meaning of a novel word can be acquired by extracting it from linguistic context. Here we simulated word learning of new words associated to concrete and abstract concepts in a variant of the human simulation paradigm that provided linguistic context information in order to characterize the brain systems involved. Native speakers of Spanish read pairs of sentences in order to derive the meaning of a new word that appeared in the terminal position of the sentences. fMRI revealed that learning the meaning associated to concrete and abstract new words was qualitatively different and recruited similar brain regions as the processing of real concrete and abstract words. In particular, learning of new concrete words selectively boosted the activation of the ventral anterior fusiform gyrus, a region driven by imageability, which has previously been implicated in the processing of concrete words.