The behavioural patterns and neural correlates of concrete and abstract verb processing in aphasia: A novel verb semantic battery

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Typically, processing is more accurate and efficient for concrete than abstract concepts in both healthy adults and individuals with aphasia. While, concreteness effects have been thoroughly documented with respect to noun processing, other words classes have received little attention despite tending to be less concrete than nouns. The aim of the current study was to explore concrete-abstract differences in verbs and identify their neural correlates in post-stroke aphasia. Given the dearth of comprehension tests for verbs, a battery of neuropsychological tests was developed in this study to assess the comprehension of concrete and abstract verbs. Specifically, a sensitive verb synonym judgment test was generated that varied both the items’ imageability and frequency, and a picture-to-word matching test with numerous concrete verbs. Normative data were then collected and the tests were administered to a cohort of 48 individuals with chronic post-stroke aphasia to explore the behavioural patterns and neural correlates of verb processing. The results revealed significantly better comprehension of concrete than abstract verbs, aligning with the existing aphasiological literature on noun processing. In addition, the patients performed better during verb comprehension than verb production. Lesion-symptom correlational analyses revealed common areas that support processing of concrete and abstract verbs, including the left anterior temporal lobe, posterior supramarginal gyrus and superior lateral occipital cortex. A direct contrast between them revealed additional regions with graded differences. Specifically, the left frontal regions were associated with processing abstract verbs; whereas, the left posterior temporal and occipital regions were associated with processing concrete verbs. Moreover, overlapping and distinct neural correlates were identified in association with the comprehension and production of concrete verbs. These patient findings align with data from functional neuroimaging and neuro-stimulation, and existing models of language organisation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)811-825
JournalNeuroImage: Clinical
Early online date6 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • verbs
  • concreteness
  • imageability
  • aphasia
  • lesion-symptom mapping


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