Give Now  »

Noon Edition

Word Up, Brain

high kick

Ready, Set, Action!

You are able to kick your foot thanks to the motor cortex--a strip of tissue running from ear to ear across the surface of the brain that is responsible for controlling voluntary movement. The instant you decide to move your foot, the part of your brain's motor cortex responsible for sending commands to the foot goes into action.

And when you write down the word "kick" and then read it to yourself, your brain lights up as though you were about to make a kicking motion.

Power of Words

According to one study, it turns out that merely reading words that describe actions, like "kick," "jump," or "run" makes your motor cortex kick up its feet, so to speak. When you read action verbs, blood rushes to the corresponding part of your motor cortex, and neurons start firing as though you were actually doing that action.

Besides the motor cortex, other parts of the brain involved with learning new actions and understanding language also get revved up when we read action verbs, according to the study. This means that understanding language seems to involve different areas of the brain pitching in to help us learn words together with the actions they describe.

With more research, scientists may be able to use this knowledge to help treat language disorders and related problems.

Read More:

"The Brain's Word Act" (Science News)

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About A Moment of Science