There is widespread agreement that figurative language fundamentally organizes how humans think and communicate. Despite the importance of figurative language, we know little about its neural underpinnings and even less about the effects of brain damage on its use. Disorders of communication profoundly affect the lives of patients as seen with deficits in phonology, semantics, and even discourse. However, we do not know very much about the breakdown in comprehension of figurative language. We hypothesize that even when individuals make substantial recoveries in language deficits following brain damage they may continue to have profound problems with understanding non-literal language.
We aim to examine metaphors, a critical form of figurative language, in functional neuroimaging and patient-based studies. To test hypothesis about the neural bases for figurative language, we will use contemporary theoretical accounts of metaphor processing to motivate our studies and design our approach to overcome previous methodological limitations in this research. We expect to uncover unappreciated communication deficits in patients with neurological damage. Given the ubiquity of metaphor use in structuring thought and communication, such deficits beg to be recognized. Our proposed studies will advance our understanding of the cognitive neuroscience of metaphor comprehension in health and disease and have implications for the rehabilitation of subjects with brain disorders such as stroke.

Public Health Relevance

People use metaphors pervasively to structure their thoughts and communications. Yet, despite knowing a great deal about the organization of literal language, we know little about the neural basis for figurative language and even less about its deficits following brain damage. We propose to conduct studies that will apply contemporary theories of metaphor comprehension and develop appropriate methods to advance our understanding of how this fundamental form of human communication is organized in the brain and how it breaks down with disease.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Language and Communication Study Section (LCOM)
Program Officer
Shekim, Lana O
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Pennsylvania
Schools of Medicine
United States
Zip Code
Cardillo, Eileen R; McQuire, Marguerite; Chatterjee, Anjan (2018) Selective Metaphor Impairments After Left, Not Right, Hemisphere Injury. Front Psychol 9:2308
Weisberg, Steven M; Badgio, Daniel; Chatterjee, Anjan (2018) Feel the way with a vibrotactile compass: Does a navigational aid aid navigation? J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn 44:667-679
Akb?y?k, Seda; Karaduman, Ay?enur; Göksun, Tilbe et al. (2018) The relationship between co-speech gesture production and macrolinguistic discourse abilities in people with focal brain injury. Neuropsychologia 117:440-453
Weisberg, Steven M; Marchette, Steven A; Chatterjee, Anjan (2018) Behavioral and Neural Representations of Spatial Directions across Words, Schemas, and Images. J Neurosci 38:4996-5007
Weisberg, Steven M; Badgio, Daniel; Chatterjee, Anjan (2017) A CRISPR New World: Attitudes in the Public toward Innovations in Human Genetic Modification. Front Public Health 5:117
Cardillo, Eileen R; Watson, Christine; Chatterjee, Anjan (2017) Stimulus needs are a moving target: 240 additional matched literal and metaphorical sentences for testing neural hypotheses about metaphor. Behav Res Methods 49:471-483
Karaduman, Ay?enur; Göksun, Tilbe; Chatterjee, Anjan (2017) Narratives of focal brain injured individuals: A macro-level analysis. Neuropsychologia 99:314-325
Jamrozik, Anja; McQuire, Marguerite; Cardillo, Eileen R et al. (2016) Metaphor: Bridging embodiment to abstraction. Psychon Bull Rev 23:1080-9
Göksun, Tilbe; Lehet, Matthew; Malykhina, Katsiaryna et al. (2015) Spontaneous gesture and spatial language: Evidence from focal brain injury. Brain Lang 150:1-13
Quandt, Lorna C; Cardillo, Eileen R; Kranjec, Alexander et al. (2015) Fronto-temporal regions encode the manner of motion in spatial language. Neurosci Lett 609:171-5

Showing the most recent 10 out of 17 publications