Cognitive training with action-related verbs induces neural plasticity in the action representation system as assessed by gray matter brain morphometry

M Ghio, M Locatelli, Andrea Tettamanti, D Perani, R Gatti, M Tettamanti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Embodied cognition theories of semantic memory still face the need for multiple sources of converging evidence in support of the involvement of sensory-motor systems in action-related knowledge. Previous studies showed that training manual actions improves semantic processing of verbs referring to the trained actions. The present work aimed to provide complementary evidence by measuring the brain plasticity effects of a cognitive training requiring sustained lexical-semantic processing of action-related verbs. We included two groups of participants, namely the Proximal Group (PG) and the Distal Group (DG), which underwent a 3-week training with verbs referring to actions involving the proximal and the distal upper limb musculature, respectively. Before and after training, we measured gray matter voxel brain morphometry based on T1 structural magnetic resonance imaging. By means of this 2 (Group: PG, DG) × 2 (Time: pre-, post-training) factorial design, we tested whether sustained cognitive experience with specific action-related verbs induces congruent brain plasticity modifications in target regions of interest pertaining to the action representation system. We found significant post- versus pre-training gray matter volume increases, specifically for PG in the left dorsal precentral gyrus, and for DG in the right cerebellar lobule VIIa. These preliminary results suggest that a cognitive training can induce structural plasticity modifications in brain regions specifically coding for the distal and proximal motor actions the trained verbs refer to. © 2018 Elsevier Ltd
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)186-194
Number of pages9
JournalNeuropsychologia
Volume114
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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