Figurative language processing after traumatic brain injury in adults: A preliminary study

Fanpei Gloria Yang, Jerome Fuller, Navid Khodaparast, Daniel C. Krawczyk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Figurative speech (e.g., proverb, irony, metaphor, and idiom) has been reported to be particularly sensitive to measurement of abstract thinking in patients who suffer from impaired abstraction and language abilities. Metaphor processing was investigated with fMRI in adults with moderate to severe post-acute traumatic brain injury (TBI) and healthy age-matched controls using a valence-judgment task. We hypothesized that TBI patients would display decreased activation of the left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG), which is considered central to semantic memory retrieval and abstract thought, in comparison with healthy controls. We also predicted that decreased activation in TBI individuals would correlate with their behavioral response times. A whole-brain analysis across the two participant groups revealed that patients did not strongly engage frontal and temporal regions related to semantic processing for novel metaphor comprehension, whereas control participants exhibited more intensive and concentrated activation within frontal and temporal areas. A region of interest (ROI) analysis verified that the LIFG was underactivated in TBI patients compared to controls across all conditions. TBI patients' impaired abstraction of novel stimuli may stem from reduced prefrontal control of semantic memory as well as disrupted interconnectivity of prefrontal cortex with other regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1923-1929
Number of pages7
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jun 2010


  • Abstraction
  • Control
  • FMRI
  • Figurative
  • Language
  • Left inferior frontal gyrus
  • Memory
  • Metaphor
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Semantic
  • Traumatic brain injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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