Metaphors Make Brains Touchy Feely


Metaphors Make Brains Touchy Feely

Mapping Metaphor.  Touching different textures activates certain areas of the brain, shown in yellow and red. But a new study finds that textural metaphors trigger a reaction, too (shown in green and, where overlapping, brown), in the parietal operculum.

The right turn of phrase can activate the brain’s sensory centers, a new study suggests.  Researchers have found that textural metaphors—phrases such as “soft-hearted”—turn on a part of the brain that’s important to the sense of touch. The result may help resolve a long-standing controversy over how the brain understands metaphors and may offer scientists a new way to study how different brain regions communicate.

  • The language-processing parts of volunteers’ brains became active regardless of whether the volunteers listened to the literal sentences or the metaphors
  • But textural metaphors also activated the parietal operculum, a region of the brain involved in feeling different textures through touch
  • That part of the brain didn’t light up when listening to a literal sentence expressing the same meaning as the metaphor.

The result suggests the brain’s grasp of metaphors is grounded in perception…This is pretty clear evidence” for the metaphor-through-perception camp”


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