Processing Chinese hand-radicals activates the medial frontal gyrus: A functional MRI investigation

Qing Lin Wu, Yu Chen Chan, Joseph P. Lavallee, Hsueh Chin Chen*, Kuo En Chang, Yao Ting Sung

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Embodied semantics theory asserts that the meaning of action-related words is neurally represented through networks that overlap with or are identical to networks involved in sory-motor processing. While some studies supporting this theory have focused on Chinese cha-racters, less attention has been paid to their semantic radicals. Indeed, there is still disagreement about whether these radicals are processed independently. The present study investigated whether radicals are processed separately and, if so, whether this processing occurs in sensory-motor gions. Materials consisted of 72 high-frequency Chinese characters, with 18 in each of four ries: hand-action verbs with and without hand-radicals, and verbs not related to hand actions, with and without hand-radicals. Twenty-eight participants underwent functional MRI scans while reading the characters. Compared to characters without hand-radicals, reading characters with hand-radicals activated the right medial frontal gyrus. Verbs involving hand-action activated the left inferior parietal lobule, possibly reflecting integration of information in the radical with the semantic meaning of the verb. The findings may be consistent with embodied semantics theory and suggest that neural representation of radicals is indispensable in processing Chinese characters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1837-1844
Number of pages8
JournalNeural Regeneration Research
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Jul 20


  • Chinese character recognition
  • Chinese learning
  • Embodied semantics
  • Functional MRI
  • Grants-supported paper
  • Hand-radical
  • Neural regeneration
  • Neuroimaging
  • Neuroregeneration
  • Radical representation
  • Semantic function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Neuroscience


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