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Working paper

Efforful verb recollection drives beta suppression in mesial frontal regions involved in action initiation

Butorina A., Nikolaeva A. Y., Prokofyev A. O., Ulanov M., Bondarev D. P., Stroganova T.
Whether the motor cortex activation accompanying concrete verbs comprehension is necessary for verbs conceptual processing is still a hotly debated topic in the literature. Answering this question, we examined to what extent the more difficult access to verb semantics requires an additional engagement of cortical motor system in verb generation task. Using power suppression of MEG beta oscillations (15-30 Hz) as an index of sensorimotor activation, we presented to our participants the noun cues which either were strongly associated with a single verb and prompted the fast and effortless verb retrieval, or were weakly associated with multiple verbs and were more difficult to respond to. A whole-brain analysis of beta suppression revealed that the only cortical regions sensitive to the difficulty of semantic access were the higher order motor areas on the medial and lateral surfaces of the frontal lobe. This differential activation of cortical motor system accompanied effortful verb retrieval and preceded the preparation of vocal response for more than 500 milliseconds. Since the mid-frontal frontal brain areas are involved in maintaining abstract representations of actions during their initiating and planning, we argue that our finding supports the view that motor associations contribute to retrieval of verb semantics.