Neural correlates of semantic and morphological processing of Hebrew nouns and verbs

Dafna Palti*, Michal Ben Shachar, Talma Hendler, Uri Hadar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Neuropsychological evidence regarding grammatical category suggests that deficits affecting verbs tend to localize differently from those affecting nouns, but previous functional imaging studies on healthy subjects fail to show consistent results that correspond to the clinical dissociation. In the current imaging study, we addressed this issue by manipulating not only the grammatical category but also the processing mode, using auditory presentation of Hebrew words. Subjects were presented with verbs and nouns and were instructed to make either a semantic decision ("Does the word belong to a given semantic category?") or a morphological decision ("Is the word inflected in plural?"). The results showed different patterns of activation across distinct regions of interest. With respect to grammatical category effects, we found increased activation for verbs in the posterior portion of the left superior temporal sulcus, left dorsal premotor area, and posterior inferior frontal gyrus. In each of these regions, the effect was sensitive to task. None of the ROIs showed noun advantage. With respect to task effects, we found a semantic advantage in left anterior inferior frontal gyrus, as well as in left posterior middle temporal gyrus. The results suggest that cerebral verb-noun dissociation is a result of localized and subtle processes that take place in a set of left frontal and temporal regions, and that the cognitive and neural processes involved in analyzing grammatical category depend on the lexical characteristics of the stimuli, as well as on task requirements. The discrepancy between functional imaging and patient data is also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-314
Number of pages12
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2007


  • Hebrew
  • Language processing
  • Neurolinguistics
  • Nouns
  • Verbs
  • fMRI


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