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Development Neurocognition Disorders

Themes and actions

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Team webmaster : Véronique BOULENGER, Florence CHENU

Embodied cognition in native and foreign language


  Contact person
Veronique BOULENGER , Claudio BROZZOLI , Jennifer KRZONOWSKI , Alice Catherine ROY

Scientific framework and objectives

In the last two decades, embodied cognition theories have offered a new perspective on the relationship between language and the brain. It is now well established that our phonological and lexical representations are enriched by the sensorimotor experiences of our body with the environment. At the semantic level, processing of action words activates the motor cortex (Boulenger et al., 2009; Hauk et al., 2004) and can also interfere with or facilitate movement execution (Boulenger et al., 2006, 2008). At the phonological level, studies using passive listening revealed motor resonance of perceived phonemes (Roy et al., 2008); somatotopy of place of articulation was even reported in the premotor cortex (Pulvermüller et al., 2006). More recently, this relationship between language and the motor system has been extended to syntax: studies have indeed suggested the existence of a supramodal syntax, governing both language and action (Brozzoli et al., 2019; Roy et al., 2013). In this framework, we follow two lines of research:

  1. Embodied cognition in foreign language learning
  2. Syntax in language and action
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The first line of research (ANR project AnchorFL) deals with embodied cognition in foreign language, with a focus on phonological processing as well as on semantic processing of action verbs. At the phonological level, we aim at determining whether cued speech can help discrimination of phonemes from a foreign language, and if so, whether the facilitation results from a better somatotopy of newly-learned phonemes (as examined with fMRI). At the semantic level, we are interested in the learning of action verbs and investigate whether observing and/or imitating gestures contribute to better verb recall, which may be reflected by stronger involvement of the motor cortex (EEG and kinematic recordings).

The second line of research, conducted withhin a project coordinated by C. Brozzoli (IMPACT-CRNL INSERM U1028 - CNRS UMR5292), aims at investigating the links between linguistic and motor syntax. More precisely, we aim at determining 1) to what extent tool-use shares cognitive and neural substrates with syntactic procesing (fMRI studies), and 2) whether tool-use training can improve syntactic skills, especially for complex structures such as object-relative clauses (PhD work by S. Thibault, (IMPACT-CRNL INSERM U1028 - CNRS UMR5292).


  Financial support
  • Appel à Projets Pluridisciplinaires Interne (APPI)
    Embodied cognition in second language processing: an fMRI study
    Université Lyon 2
    2017-2019
  • ANR Projet de Recherche Collaborative
    AnchorFL: Anchoring Foreign Language Learning
    Agence Nationale de la Recherche

  Publications
  • Brozzoli, C., Roy, A., Lidborg, L., Lövden, M., 2019, "Language as a tool: motor proficiency using a tool predicts individual linguistic abilities", Frontiers in Psychology, doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01639
  • Thibault, S., Boulenger, V., Roy, A., Brozzoli, C., 2019, "Tool-use triggers improvements in syntactic abilities", Cogntive Neuroscience Society meeting, San Francisco, 23-26 march
  • Thibault, S., Boulenger, V., Roy, A., Brozzoli, C., 2019, "Neural resources shared by language and tool-use: a basis for tool-use benefits over syntactic abilities", Society for Neuroscience, Chicago, USA, 19-23 octobre
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