By Amy Vega - March 15, 2017

Motor Skills Role In Language Processing

Individuals who struggle with speech, language and literacy skills tend to display impaired motor coordination and poor timing compared to more normally functioning peers.  A new, groundbreaking study provides strong evidence for the role of the primary motor cortex in language processing, which is quite interesting in light of recent research showing a strong connection between the ability to consistently & rhythmically synchronize motor movements to an auditory reference beat and the degree neural maturation for speech, language, and literacy skills (Kraus et al., 2017). Providers frequently observe that as motor planning & sequencing skills improve with Interactive Metronome (IM) training, so do cognitive and language processing capabilities.

The authors concluded that “the role of the motor cortex in comprehension is inherently functional, and that this involvement is evident when processing semantic action-related aspects of language. The authors explain this important connection as follows:

     “What mechanism can explain the observed causal role of motor cortex in action language processing? We believe that our data can be most easily reconciled with – and are in fact predicted by – the simulation theory of semantics (Barsalou, 2010). According to this view, when we read or hear a word, we access its meaning, at least in part, by mentally simulating the perceptual, motor, affective, and other information associated with the corresponding meaning. At a neural level, the simulation consists of partially reactivating the same brain networks which were involved during learning and subsequent re-use of the word in its referential context. In other words, in order to access the wordʼs meaning, one has to “re-experience” its activation history. For example, understanding the verb “punch” would involve using the motor cortex to simulate the kind of motor programs needed to actually perform the action of punching.”

Read the study here

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