Dissociation between semantic representations for motion and action verbs: evidence from patients with left hemisphere lesions

Lawrence J. Taylor, Carys Evans*, Joanna Greer, Carl Senior, Kenny R. Coventry, Magdalena Letswaart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This multiple single case study contrasted left hemisphere stroke patients (N = 6) to healthy age-matched control participants (N = 15) on their understanding of action (e.g., holding, clenching) and motion verbs (e.g., crumbling, flowing). The tasks required participants to correctly identify the matching verb or associated picture. Dissociations on action and motion verb content depending on lesion site were expected. As predicted for verbs containing an action and/or motion content, modified t-tests confirmed selective deficits in processing motion verbs in patients with lesions involving posterior parietal and lateral occipitotemporal cortex. In contrast, deficits in verbs describing motionless actions were found in patients with more anterior lesions sparing posterior parietal and lateral occipitotemporal cortex. These findings support the hypotheses that semantic representations for action and motion are behaviorally and neuro-anatomically dissociable. The findings clarify the differential and critical role of perceptual and motor regions in processing modality-specific semantic knowledge as opposed to a supportive but not necessary role. We contextualize these results within theories from both cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience that make claims over the role of sensory and motor information in semantic representation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number35
Number of pages16
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2017

Bibliographical note

© 2017 Taylor, Evans, Greer, Senior, Coventry and Ietswaart. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

Supplementary data available on the journal website.


  • neuropsychology
  • left hemisphere
  • lateral occipitotemporal cortex
  • affordances
  • embodied cognition
  • semantic representation
  • aphasia


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