Grasping metaphors: UC San Diego research ties brain area to figures of speech

ger in hominids than other primates, the angular gyrus, given its strategic location at the crossroads of areas specialized for processing touch, hearing and vision, Ramachandran conjectures, is critical both to conceptual metaphors and to cross-modal abstractions more generally.

"While it would be premature to conclude that the angular gyrus is the 'metaphor center' of the human brain, we suggest that the evolution of the dominant angular gyrus contributed enormously to the evolution of many quintessentially human abilities, including metaphorical and other abstract thinking," Ramachandran said.

"Any monkey can reach for a peanut," he said, "but only a human can reach for the stars or even understand what that means."

Ramachandran's lab is continuing work on linking other brain areas, the supramarginal gyrus and human homologues of mirror neurons, for example, to other types of metaphoric abilities.

Intriguingly, in the current study, patient KK, who had damage not only to the angular gyrus but also to the supramarginal gyrus, was abysmal at understanding action metaphors such as "grasping an idea" or "putting your finger on the main argument."


Contact: Inga Kiderra
University of California - San Diego

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