Body into Narrative: Behavioral and Neurophysiological Signatures of Action Text Processing After Ecological Motor Training
Neuroscience. 2022 Dec 15;507:52-63. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2022.10.024. Epub 2022 Nov 8.
Embodied cognition research indicates that sensorimotor training can influence action concept processing. Yet, most studies employ isolated (pseudo)randomized stimuli and require repetitive single-effector responses, thus lacking ecological validity. Moreover, the neural signatures of these effects remain poorly understood. Here, we examined whether immersive bodily training can modulate behavioral and functional connectivity correlates of action-verb processing in naturalistic narratives. The study involved three phases. First, in the Pre-training phase, 32 healthy persons listened to an action text (rich in movement descriptions) and a non-action text (focused on its characters' perceptual and mental processes), completed comprehension questionnaires, and underwent resting-state electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings. Second, in the four-day Training phase, half the participants completed an exergaming intervention (eliciting full-body movements for 60 min a day) while the remaining half played static videogames (requiring no bodily engagement other than button presses). Finally, in the Post-training phase, all participants repeated the Pre-training protocol with different action and non-action texts and a new EEG session. We found that exergaming selectively reduced action-verb outcomes and fronto-posterior functional connectivity in the motor-sensitive ∼ 10-20 Hz range, both patterns being positively correlated. Conversely, static videogame playing yielded no specific effect on any linguistic category and did not modulate functional connectivity. Together, these findings suggest that action-verb processing and key neural correlates can be focally influenced by full-body motor training in a highly ecological setting. Our study illuminates the role of situated experience and sensorimotor circuits in action-concept processing, addressing calls for naturalistic insights on language embodiment.