By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
As much as we celebrate thought and cognition, we still tend to experience the world in a tactile fashion, through our bodies. And as much as we celebrate innovation and originality, we still tend to understand the new in terms of what is already familiar. Putting the two together, a team composed of specialists in neurology, psychology, and rehabilitative medicine at Emory University have recently looked at the curious ability of some metaphoric language to be processed not just in the speech regions in the brain, but in those associated with bodily action as well. In particular, they looked at the ability of tactile metaphors — those that invoke the experience of touch — to activate the regions of the brain that are involved in the sensory experiences of touch. It appears that discussing a “smooth” landing, a “rough” experience, or a “pointed” comment doesn’t just lead the brain to consider the ideas suggested in that language, but leads the gray matter to process the touch-based experiences as well.
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