For more than 60 years, scientists have known that a strip of neural tissue that runs ear-to-ear along the brain's surface orchestrates most voluntary movement, from raising a fork to kicking a ball. A new brain-imaging study has revealed that parts of this so-called motor cortex also respond vigorously as people do nothing more than silently read words.
Not just any words get those neurons going, however. They have to be action words—active verbs.
As volunteers read a verb referring to a face, arm, or leg action—such as lick, pick, or kick—the motor cortex areas that control the specified action exhibit high rates of blood flow, a sign of intense neural activity, say neuroscientist Friedemann Pulvermüller of the Medical Research Council in Cambridge, England, and his colleagues. For instance, reading the word lick triggers