HD-tDCS of primary and higher-order motor cortex affects action word processing
The contribution of action-perception systems of the brain to lexical semantics remains controversial. Here, we used high-definition transcranial direct current stimulation (HD-tDCS) in healthy adults to examine the role of primary (left hand motor area; HMA) and higher-order (left anterior inferior parietal lobe; aIPL) action areas in action-related word processing (action verbs and manipulable nouns) compared to non-action-related control words (non-action verbs and non-manipulable nouns). We investigated stimulation-related effects at three levels of semantic processing: subliminal, implicit, and explicit. Broadly, we found that stimulation of HMA and aIPL resulted in relative facilitation of action-related language processing compared to non-action. HMA stimulation facilitated action verb processing in subliminal and implicit task contexts, suggesting that HMA helps represent action verbs even in semantically shallow tasks. HMA stimulation also facilitated manipulable noun comprehension in an explicit semantic task, suggesting that HMA contributes to manipulable noun comprehension when semantic demands are high. aIPL stimulation facilitated both manipulable noun and action verb processing during an implicit task. We suggest that both HMA and aIPL play a functional role in action semantics. HMA plays a general role in the semantics of actions and manipulable objects, while aIPL is important only when visuo-motor coordination is required for the action.