A study of neural semantic mapping

CJMacie, modified 7 Years ago at 5/4/16 2:01 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 5/4/16 1:50 AM

A study of neural semantic mapping

Posts: 856 Join Date: 8/17/14 Recent Posts
An overview by the authors (at UC Berkeley) at:

(The full study isn't that accessible -- a comment inserted in the summary (emphasis added): "Unfortunately this paper is currently paywalled at Nature ." One can, however see the colorful pictures, at

No particular relationship to mental development / Dharma practice, but an unusally interesting, even credible study. The findings appear highly significant, but the authors don't over-inflate them, and their honest analysis of the pros and cons of the methodology is refreshing – i.e. pointing out the nature and spatial but not temporal definition afforded by fMRI, and the statistical techniques.

Although the semantic-mapping issue might be questioned as to cultural or linguistic specificity, the authors also address this, suggesting further reseach directions here and in other dimensions. Also interesting their technique to spread the convoluted cerebral cortex surface into flattened maps to facilitate interpretation.

The methodology also addresses the grouping/averaging vs individual variability issue. They use a couple of techniques that might seem mysterious (I've never seen mentioned before) – e.g. "voxel-wise modeling", " a generative statistical model, PrAGMATiC (Probabilistic and Generative Model of Areas Tiling Cortex)", and "psychophysics". The discussion of how these are used is, however, rather level-headed, IMO.

Perhaps someone here can tease-out some relevance to "pragmatic Dharma"; after all, a key methodology used is called "PrAGMATiC" emoticon

The closest I would quess off-hand has to do with perhaps this as mapping of, essentially, aspects of sankhata – elements of mental formations or fabrications, which could be seen as essentially semantic. In fact, the approach here, including the overall analysis of the domain and possible future avenues of research --
("Human language is a complex signal that contains many different types of information: spectral information, phonemes, morphemes, syntax, semantics and narrative. During natural comprehension of narrative speech the brain must process all of these different aspects of language. Therefore, each of these different aspects of language must be represented somewhere in the brain. In this specific study we focused on mapping the representation of semantic information across the cerebral cortex. In future studies we hope to use a similar approach to map other aspects of language, such phonemes, syntax and so on.")
-- reminds me of Antonio Damasio's insightful manner of deciphering the consciousness-neural relationship, and the possibility, as with Damasio's approach, of interesting correlates to the Abhidhamma analysis of mental structure/process.
neko, modified 7 Years ago at 5/4/16 4:32 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 5/4/16 4:32 AM

RE: A study of neural semantic mapping

Posts: 762 Join Date: 11/26/14 Recent Posts
Fantastic, thanks! What is amazing is that this map is obtained not by studying one participants, but several. It seems to imply rather conclusively that the brain is primed genetically to hold certain concepts in certain areas, and not in others.

I would be very curious to know if there are words / concepts that are mapped to different areas of the brain in different cultures. (Or even, from the opposite point of view --- although this might not sound very PC --- if there are differences in mapping across genders and ethnicities within the same culture).