There is ongoing debate regarding the role that sensorimotor regions play in conceptual processing, with embodied theories supporting their direct involvement in processing verbs describing body part movements. Patient lesion studies examining a causal role for sensorimotor activation in conceptual task performance have suffered the caveat of lesions being largely diffuse and extensive beyond sensorimotor cortices. The current study addresses this limitation in reporting on 20 pre-operative neurosurgical patients with focal lesion to the pre- and post-central area corresponding to somatotopic representations. Patients were presented with a battery of neuropsychological tests and experimental tasks tapping into motor imagery and verbal conceptual verb processing in addition to neurophysiological measures including DTI, fMRI, and MEP being measured. Results indicated that left tumor patients who presented with a lesion at or near somatotopic hand representations performed significantly worse on the mental rotation hand task and that performance correlated with MEP amplitudes in the upper limb motor region. Furthermore, performance on tasks of verbal processing was within the normal range. Taken together, while our results evidence the involvement of the motor system in motor imagery processes, they do not support the embodied view that sensorimotor regions are necessary to tasks of action verb processing.
ASJC Scopus subject areas