CoActions Lab

Cognition and Actions Lab

Role of Broca’s area in motor syntax and action understanding

Syntax is the study of the principles and rules by which sentences are constructed. Indeed, words composing sentences are not arranged randomly but have to comply with a precise organization, allowing the production of meaningful sentences. Similarly, complex actions also require merging and arranging short units (simple movements) into the appropriate order, according to certain rules. Recently it has been suggested that language and action may share the same syntactic processor, possibly located in Broca’s area, which could act irrespective of the domain (language, action, music, calculation...) and whatever the nature of the sequences (perceptual, motor or cognitive).  However, whether Broca’s area controls the movement syntax remains debated and this question is under investigation in our laboratory.
On the other hand, many neuroimaging studies have concluded that Broca’s are, because of its central position in the mirror neuron system, is involved in action understanding and, possibly, goal inference. However, beyond these correlative findings, the actual contribution of Broca’s area to those processes is still controversial. A few recent clinical studies have also indicated that a lesion of Broca’s area causes deficits in gesture discrimination and action recognition, suggesting that this brain region might be involved in limb apraxia. This issue is also currently under investigation in our laboratory.

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