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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

January 2015, Vol. 27, No. 1, Pages 175-184
(doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_00682)
© 2014 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Behavioral and Neural Effects of Language on Motion Perception
Article PDF (359.84 KB)

Perception does not function as an isolated module but is tightly linked with other cognitive functions. Several studies have demonstrated an influence of language on motion perception, but it remains debated at which level of processing this modulation takes place. Some studies argue for an interaction in perceptual areas, but it is also possible that the interaction is mediated by “language areas” that integrate linguistic and visual information. Here, we investigated whether language–perception interactions were specific to the language-dominant left hemisphere by comparing the effects of language on visual material presented in the right (RVF) and left visual fields (LVF). Furthermore, we determined the neural locus of the interaction using fMRI. Participants performed a visual motion detection task. On each trial, the visual motion stimulus was presented in either the LVF or in the RVF, preceded by a centrally presented word (e.g., “rise”). The word could be congruent, incongruent, or neutral with regard to the direction of the visual motion stimulus that was presented subsequently. Participants were faster and more accurate when the direction implied by the motion word was congruent with the direction of the visual motion stimulus. Interestingly, the speed benefit was present only for motion stimuli that were presented in the RVF. We observed a neural counterpart of the behavioral facilitation effects in the left middle temporal gyrus, an area involved in semantic processing of verbal material. Together, our results suggest that semantic information about motion retrieved in language regions may automatically modulate perceptual decisions about motion.