Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 425
  • Cited by
    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Binkofski, Ferdinand Christoph Klann, Juliane and Caspers, Svenja 2016. Neurobiology of Language.

    Cao, Liyu Klepp, Anne Schnitzler, Alfons Gross, Joachim and Biermann-Ruben, Katja 2016. Auditory perception modulated by word reading. Experimental Brain Research,

    Fino, Edita Menegatti, Michela Avenanti, Alessio and Rubini, Monica 2016. Enjoying vs. smiling: Facial muscular activation in response to emotional language. Biological Psychology, Vol. 118, p. 126.

    Garagnani, Max Pulvermüller, Friedemann and Barbas, Helen 2016. Conceptual grounding of language in action and perception: a neurocomputational model of the emergence of category specificity and semantic hubs. European Journal of Neuroscience, Vol. 43, Issue. 6, p. 721.

    García, Adolfo M. and Ibáñez, Agustín 2016. A touch with words: Dynamic synergies between manual actions and language. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, Vol. 68, p. 59.

    Grisoni, Luigi Dreyer, Felix R. and Pulvermüller, Friedemann 2016. Somatotopic Semantic Priming and Prediction in the Motor System. Cerebral Cortex, Vol. 26, Issue. 5, p. 2353.

    Hauk, Olaf 2016. Only time will tell – why temporal information is essential for our neuroscientific understanding of semantics. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review,

    Hauk, Olaf 2016. Neurobiology of Language.

    Lam, Kevin J. Y. Bastiaansen, Marcel C. M. Dijkstra, Ton and Rueschemeyer, Shirley-Ann 2016. Making sense: motor activation and action plausibility during sentence processing. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, p. 1.

    Leminen, Alina Kimppa, Lilli Leminen, Miika M. Lehtonen, Minna Mäkelä, Jyrki P. and Shtyrov, Yury 2016. Acquisition and consolidation of novel morphology in human neocortex: A neuromagnetic study. Cortex, Vol. 83, p. 1.

    Moseley, Rachel L. Correia, Marta M. Baron-Cohen, Simon Shtyrov, Yury Pulvermüller, Friedemann and Mohr, Bettina 2016. Reduced Volume of the Arcuate Fasciculus in Adults with High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Conditions. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Vol. 10,

    Pulvermüller, Friedemann and Fadiga, Luciano 2016. Neurobiology of Language.

    Rasheed, Nadia Amin, Shamsudin H.M. Sultana, U. Shakoor, Rabia Zareen, Naila and Bhatti, Abdul Rauf 2016. Theoretical accounts to practical models: Grounding phenomenon for abstract words in cognitive robots. Cognitive Systems Research, Vol. 40, p. 86.

    Rizzolatti, Giacomo and Rozzi, Stefano 2016. Neurobiology of Language.

    Shepherdson, Peter and Miller, Jeff 2016. Non-semantic contributions to “semantic” redundancy gain. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, Vol. 69, Issue. 8, p. 1564.

    Strijkers, Kristof 2016. Can hierarchical models display parallel cortical dynamics? A non-hierarchical alternative of brain language theory. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, Vol. 31, Issue. 4, p. 465.

    Strijkers, Kristof and Costa, Albert 2016. On words and brains: linking psycholinguistics with neural dynamics in speech production. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, Vol. 31, Issue. 4, p. 524.

    Strijkers, Kristof and Costa, Albert 2016. The cortical dynamics of speaking: present shortcomings and future avenues. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, Vol. 31, Issue. 4, p. 484.

    Thierry, Guillaume 2016. Neurolinguistic Relativity: How Language Flexes Human Perception and Cognition. Language Learning, Vol. 66, Issue. 3, p. 690.

    Tomasello, Rosario Garagnani, Max Wennekers, Thomas and Pulvermüller, Friedemann 2016. Brain connections of words, perceptions and actions: A neurobiological model of spatio-temporal semantic activation in the human cortex. Neuropsychologia,


Words in the brain's language

  • Friedemann Pulvermüller (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 April 1999

If the cortex is an associative memory, strongly connected cell assemblies will form when neurons in different cortical areas are frequently active at the same time. The cortical distributions of these assemblies must be a consequence of where in the cortex correlated neuronal activity occurred during learning. An assembly can be considered a functional unit exhibiting activity states such as full activation (“ignition”) after appropriate sensory stimulation (possibly related to perception) and continuous reverberation of excitation within the assembly (a putative memory process). This has implications for cortical topographies and activity dynamics of cell assemblies forming during language acquisition, in particular for those representing words. Cortical topographies of assemblies should be related to aspects of the meaning of the words they represent, and physiological signs of cell assembly ignition should be followed by possible indicators of reverberation. The following postulates are discussed in detail: (1) assemblies representing phonological word forms are strongly lateralized and distributed over perisylvian cortices; (2) assemblies representing highly abstract words such as grammatical function words are also strongly lateralized and restricted to these perisylvian regions; (3) assemblies representing concrete content words include additional neurons in both hemispheres; (4) assemblies representing words referring to visual stimuli include neurons in visual cortices; and (5) assemblies representing words referring to actions include neurons in motor cortices. Two main sources of evidence are used to evaluate these proposals: (a) imaging studies focusing on localizing word processing in the brain, based on stimulus-triggered event-related potentials (ERPs), positron emission tomography (PET), and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and (b) studies of the temporal dynamics of fast activity changes in the brain, as revealed by high-frequency responses recorded in the electroencephalogram (EEG) and magnetoencephalogram (MEG). These data provide evidence for processing differences between words and matched meaningless pseudowords, and between word classes, such as concrete content and abstract function words, and words evoking visual or motor associations. There is evidence for early word class-specific spreading of neuronal activity and for equally specific high-frequency responses occurring later. These results support a neurobiological model of language in the Hebbian tradition. Competing large-scale neuronal theories of language are discussed in light of the data summarized. Neurobiological perspectives on the problem of serial order of words in syntactic strings are considered in closing.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Behavioral and Brain Sciences
  • ISSN: 0140-525X
  • EISSN: 1469-1825
  • URL: /core/journals/behavioral-and-brain-sciences
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *