The relationship between the lexical-semantic and sensory-motor systems is an important topic in cognitive neuroscience. An important finding indicating that these two systems interact is that reading action verbs activates the motor system of the human brain. Two constraints have been proposed to modulate this activation: the effector information associated with the action concepts and statistical regularities between sublexical features and grammatical classes. Using fMRI, we examined whether these two types of information can activate the motor system in the absence of specific motor-semantic content by manipulating the existence of a sublexical cue, called the hand radical, which strongly indicates the semantic feature “hand-related” and grammatical class “verb.” Although hand radical characters referring to specific manual actions evoked stronger activation in the premotor cortex than the control characters, hand radical pseudocharacters did not evoke specific activation within the motor system. These results indicated that activation of the premotor cortex during word reading relies on the access of specific action concepts.

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