The role of the right hemisphere in processing nonsalient metaphorical meanings: Application of Principal Components Analysis to fMRI data

N. Mashal, M. Faust, T. Hendler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Some researches indicate that the right hemisphere (RH) has a unique role in comprehending the figurative meaning of metaphors whereas the results of other studies do not support the notion of a selective role for the RH in accessing metaphorical meanings. The present research used fMRI technology to test a theoretical explanation of the above conflicting findings. This theoretical account is derived from the Graded Salience Hypothesis (GSH) [Giora, R. (1997). Understanding figurative and literal language: The Graded Salience Hypothesis. Cognitive Linguistics, 7, 183-206; Giora, R. (2003). On our mind: Salience, context and figurative language. New York: Oxford University Press], according to which the degree of meaning salience, rather than literality or nonliterality primarily affects differences between the LH and RH in linguistic processing. Thus, the GSH predicts a selective RH involvement in comprehension of novel, nonsalient metaphoric meanings and LH involvement in the comprehension of conventional, salient metaphoric meanings. Fifteen normal adults participated in a block designed fMRI experiment that compared the patterns of brain activation induced by processing the meanings of literal, conventional metaphoric, novel metaphoric and unrelated word pairs. The subjects performed a semantic judgment task. We applied the Principal Components Analysis (PCA) technique in order to find different functional networks corresponding to the different stimuli. Our results, obtained from PCA of the fMRI data indicate that the right homologue of Wernicke's area has a special role in processing novel metaphors. We suggest that a unique network, consisting of the right homologue of Wernicke's area, right and left premotor areas, right and left insula and Broca's area, is recruited for the processing of novel metaphors but not for the processing of conventional metaphors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2084-2100
Number of pages17
JournalNeuropsychologia
Volume43
Issue number14
DOIs
StatePublished - 2005

Keywords

  • Metaphors
  • PCA
  • Right hemisphere
  • Salience
  • fMRI

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