Seminar Series

What’s the story? Neuroimaging studies of text comprehension

Communication includes many aspects in addition to language comprehension. Besides understanding the meaning of words and the structure of sentences, the listener or reader needs cognitive and pragmatic skills to be able to derive appropriate interpretations. In the neuropsychological literature, these skills have been attributed to right hemisphere and/or prefrontal functions. In this talk I will provide an overview over results from neuroimaging studies on text comprehension and pragmatics. In general, the results confirm the contribution of an “extended language network” (ELN), going beyond the left-hemispheric language cortex. In particular, I will present examples of my own work on inference and coherence, situation model building and joke comprehension. Brain regions consistently contributing to these processes are the anterior temporal lobes bilaterally and the fronto- and parieto-medial cortices. In contrast, the role of the right hemisphere remains somewhat elusive. Reviews and a recent meta-analysis confirm the generalizability of these findings.