Abstract

Functional imaging studies have demonstrated that processing of man-made objects activate the left ventral premotor cortex, which is known to be concerned with motor function. This has led to the suggestion that the comprehension of man-made objects may rely on motor-based knowledge of object utilization (action knowledge). Here we show that the left ventral premotor cortex is activated during categorization of “both” fruit/vegetables and articles of clothing, relative to animals and nonmanipulable man-made objects. This observation suggests that action knowledge may not be important for the processing of man-made objects per se, but rather for the processing of manipulable objects in general, whether natural or man-made. These findings both support psycholinguistic theories suggesting that certain lexical categories may evolve from, and the act of categorization rely upon, motor-based knowledge of action equivalency, and have important implications for theories of category specificity. Thus, the finding that the processing of vegetables/fruit and articles of clothing give rise to similar activation is difficult to account for should knowledge representations in the brain be truly categorically organized. Instead, the data are compatible with the suggestion that categories differ in the weight they put on different types of knowledge.

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