Gesture and metaphor comprehension: Electrophysiological evidence of cross-modal coordination by audiovisual stimulation

Carlos Cornejo, Franco Simonetti, Agustín Ibáñez, Nerea Aldunate, Francisco Ceric, Vladimir López, Rafael E. Núñez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


In recent years, studies have suggested that gestures influence comprehension of linguistic expressions, for example, eliciting an N400 component in response to a speech/gesture mismatch. In this paper, we investigate the role of gestural information in the understanding of metaphors. Event related potentials (ERPs) were recorded while participants viewed video clips of an actor uttering metaphorical expressions and producing bodily gestures that were congruent or incongruent with the metaphorical meaning of such expressions. This modality of stimuli presentation allows a more ecological approach to meaning integration. When ERPs were calculated using gesture stroke as time-lock event, gesture incongruity with metaphorical expression modulated the amplitude of the N400 and of the late positive complex (LPC). This suggests that gestural and speech information are combined online to make sense of the interlocutor's linguistic production in an early stage of metaphor comprehension. Our data favor the idea that meaning construction is globally integrative and highly context-sensitive.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-52
Number of pages11
JournalBrain and Cognition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2009
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by Grant 1030473 from the FONDECYT (CHILE) (Fondo para el Desarrollo de la Ciencia y Tecnología) to Carlos Cornejo and Franco Simonetti. We thank María Teresa Muñoz, Diego Carrasco, David Carré, Roberto Musa, Boris Lucero and Francisco Pizarro for helping with data collection. We would also like to thank the reviewers of Brain and Cognition for their valuable comments on previous versions of this article.


  • Gesture
  • LPC
  • Metaphor
  • Multimodal integration
  • N400
  • Stroke
  • Video


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