Sentence understanding depends on contextual use of semantic and real world knowledge

Sarah Tune*, Matthias Schlesewsky, Arne Nagels, Steven L. Small, Ina Bornkessel-Schlesewsky

*Corresponding author for this work
4 Citations (Scopus)


Human language allows us to express our thoughts and ideas by combining entities, concepts and actions into multi-event episodes. Yet, the functional neuroanatomy engaged in interpretation of such high-level linguistic input remains poorly understood. Here, we used easy to detect and more subtle "borderline" anomalies to investigate the brain regions and mechanistic principles involved in the use of real-world event knowledge in language comprehension. Overall, the results showed that the processing of sentences in context engages a complex set of bilateral brain regions in the frontal, temporal and inferior parietal lobes. Easy anomalies preferentially engaged lower-order cortical areas adjacent to the primary auditory cortex. In addition, the left supramarginal gyrus and anterior temporal sulcus as well as the right posterior middle temporal gyrus contributed to the processing of easy and borderline anomalies. The observed pattern of results is explained in terms of (i) hierarchical processing along a dorsal-ventral axis and (ii) the assumption of high-order association areas serving as cortical hubs in the convergence of information in a distributed network. Finally, the observed modulation of BOLD signal in prefrontal areas provides support for their role in the implementation of executive control processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-25
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 01.08.2016

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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