Fine tuned modulation of the motor system by adjectives expressing positive and negative properties

P. M. Gough, G. C. Campione, G. Buccino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), motor evoked potentials (MEPs) were recorded from two antagonistic muscles, the first dorsal interosseus (FDI) of the hand and the extensor communis digitorum (EC) of the forearm. FDI is involved in grasping actions and EC in releasing. TMS pulses were delivered while participants were reading adjectives expressing either negative or positive pragmatic properties, at 150. ms after presentation of language material. Overall findings showed an interaction of adjective type (positive, negative) and muscle (FDI, EC), the effect being driven by a significant difference for negative adjectives. Further analysis aimed at investigating the effectiveness of positive adjectives showed a similar, but opposite, pattern of effects for the positive words in the initial two blocks. The present results indicate that, as for verbs and nouns, adjectives recruit the sensorimotor system, and their processing is best explained by an embodiment rather than an amodal approach to language.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-59
Number of pages6
JournalBrain and Language
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013


  • Adjective processing
  • Embodied language
  • Language processing
  • MEPs
  • TMS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Language and Linguistics


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