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Human language allows us to create an infinitude of ideas from a finite set of basic building blocks. What is the neurobiology of this combinatory system? Research has begun to dissect the neural basis of natural language syntax and semantics by analyzing the basics of meaning composition, such as two-word phrases. This work has revealed a system of composition that involves rapidly peaking activity in the left anterior temporal lobe and later engagement of the medial prefrontal cortex. Both brain regions show evidence of shared processing between comprehension and production, as well as between spoken and signed language. Both appear to compute meaning, not syntactic structure. This Review discusses how language builds meaning and lays out directions for future neurobiological research on the combinatory system.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Science (New York, N.Y.)
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The science of language, including phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, and historical linguistics. (Random House Unabridged Dictionary, 2d ed)
A term used in Eastern European research literature for the functional neural unit that provides the basis for differential sensitivity; the analyzer consists of receptor, afferent nerves, and their central connections. (From Campbell's Psychiatric Dictionary, 8th ed.)
An early embryonic developmental process of CHORDATES that is characterized by morphogenic movements of ECTODERM resulting in the formation of the NEURAL PLATE; the NEURAL CREST; and the NEURAL TUBE. Improper closure of the NEURAL GROOVE results in congenital NEURAL TUBE DEFECTS.
The relationships between symbols and their meanings.
The two longitudinal ridges along the PRIMITIVE STREAK appearing near the end of GASTRULATION during development of nervous system (NEURULATION). The ridges are formed by folding of NEURAL PLATE. Between the ridges is a neural groove which deepens as the fold become elevated. When the folds meet at midline, the groove becomes a closed tube, the NEURAL TUBE.