The Department of Cognitive Sciences, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Center for Hearing Research, and Center for Language Science present

"Perceiving Actions and Understanding Language"
with Steven L. Small, Ph.D., M.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Neurology; Professor, Cognitive Sciences; Professor, Neurobiology and Behavior; University of California, Irvine

Wednesday, October 19, 2011
12:00–1:00 p.m.
Social & Behavioral Sciences Gateway (SBSG), Room 1517

An important source of information for language comprehension comes from the perception of action, including the movements of the mouth and hands. The neural interactions involved in processing this information involve the premotor cortex, the inferior parietal lobule, and the superior temporal gyrus. These regions and the neural connections among them comprise a human system for observation-execution matching that appears to have a phylogenetic basis in the "mirror neuron" system of the macaque. There is some controversy about the extent to which this system operates by covert simulation of perceived action. In this talk, Small will present data from several studies of audiovisual language comprehension that address the relevant issues. First he will discuss the role of action understanding in speech perception, and show how it aids phonological disambiguation across environmental and contextual variation, and that the motor cortex plays a fundamental role in the process. Next, he will discuss the role of action understanding in higher order language comprehension. Finally, he will present data directly addressing the putative role of motor simulation in comprehension. He will conclude that the process of understanding language involves multimodal sensory and motor processing, but perhaps not simulation per se, and that the overall process forms a distributed circuit encoding comprehension.

For further information, please contact Adam Cook, or 949-824-6692.

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