In this study, we investigated two aspects of verb processing: first, whether verbs are processed differently from nouns; and second, how verbal morphology is processed. For this purpose, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to compare three types of lexical processing in Japanese: the processing of nouns, unmarked active verbs, and inflected passive verbs. Twenty-eight healthy subjects were shown a lexical item and asked to judge whether the presented item was a legal word. Although all three conditions activated the bilateral inferior frontal, occipital, the left middle, and inferior temporal cortices, we found differences in the degree of activation for each condition. Verbs elicited greater activation in the left middle temporal gyrus than nouns, and inflected verbs showed greater activation in the left inferior frontal gyrus than unmarked verbs. This study demonstrates that although verbs are basically processed in the same cortical network as nouns, nouns and verbs elicit different degrees of activation due to the cognitive demands involved in lexical semantic processing. Furthermore, this study also shows that the left inferior frontal cortex is related to the processing of verbal inflectional morphology.

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