An fMRI investigation of the neural correlates underlying the processing of novel metaphoric expressions

N. Mashal*, M. Faust, T. Hendler, M. Jung-Beeman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

288 Scopus citations


The neural networks associated with processing related pairs of words forming literal, novel, and conventional metaphorical expressions and unrelated pairs of words were studied in a group of 15 normal adults using fMRI. Subjects read the four types of linguistic expressions and decided which relation exists between the two words (metaphoric, literal, or unrelated). According to the Graded Salience Hypothesis (GSH, Giora, 1997, 2002, 2003), which predicts a selective RH involvement in the processing of novel, nonsalient meanings, it is primarily the degree of meaning salience of a linguistic expression rather than literality or nonliterality, which modulates the degree of left hemisphere (LH) and right hemisphere (RH) processing of metaphors. In the present study, novel metaphorical expressions represented the nonsalient interpretations, whereas conventional metaphors and literal expressions represented the salient interpretations. A direct comparison of the novel metaphors vs. the conventional metaphors revealed significantly stronger activity in right posterior superior temporal sulcus, right inferior frontal gyrus, and left middle frontal gyrus. These results support the GSH and suggest a special role for the RH in processing novel metaphors. Furthermore, the right PSTS may be selectively involved in verbal creativity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-126
Number of pages12
JournalBrain and Language
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2007


FundersFunder number
United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation2003317
United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation


    • Novel metaphors
    • PSTS
    • Right hemisphere
    • Salient
    • Verbal creativity
    • fMRI


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