Research Topic

The Metaphorical Brain

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Metaphor has been an issue of intense research and debate for decades. Researchers in various disciplines, including linguistics, psychology, computer science, education, and philosophy have developed a variety of theories, and much progress has been made. For one, metaphor is no longer considered a ...

Metaphor has been an issue of intense research and debate for decades. Researchers in various disciplines, including linguistics, psychology, computer science, education, and philosophy have developed a variety of theories, and much progress has been made. For one, metaphor is no longer considered a rhetorical flourish that is found mainly in literary texts. Rather, linguists have shown that metaphor is a pervasive phenomenon in everyday language, a major force in the development of new word meanings, and the source of at least some grammatical function words. Indeed, one of the most influential theories of metaphor involves the suggestion that the commonality of metaphoric language results because cross-domain mappings are a major determinant in the organization of semantic memory, as cognitive and neural resources for dealing with concrete domains are recruited for the conceptualization of more abstract ones. Researchers in cognitive neuroscience have explored whether particular kinds of brain damage are associated with metaphor production and comprehension deficits, and whether similar brain regions are recruited when healthy adults understand the literal and metaphorical meanings of the same words. Whereas early research on this topic focused on the issue of the role of hemispheric asymmetry in the comprehension and production of metaphors, in recent years cognitive neuroscientists have argued that metaphor is not a monolithic category, and that metaphor processing varies as a function of numerous factors, including the novelty or conventionality of a particular metaphoric expression, its part of speech, and the extent of contextual support for the metaphoric meaning. Moreover, recent developments in cognitive neuroscience point to a sensorimotor basis for many concrete concepts, and raise the issue of whether these mechanisms are ever recruited to process more abstract domains.

In order to promote the development of the neuroscientific investigation of metaphor, this Frontiers Research Topic aims at bringing together contributions from researchers in cognitive neuroscience and related fields, whose work involves the study of metaphor in language and thought. Specifically, this Research Topic will adopt an interdisciplinary perspective on the cognitive and neural basis of metaphor production and comprehension. Here, an important focal point will be to characterize the underlying processes and mechanisms involved in metaphoric language and identify their relationship, if any, to those involved in the organization of semantic memory. For this Research Topic, we, therefore, solicit original research articles, reviews, opinion and method papers, that investigate the cognitive neuroscience of metaphor. While focusing on work in the neurosciences, this Research Topic also welcomes contributions in the form of behavioral studies, psychophysiological investigations, methodological innovations, computational approaches, along with developmental and patient studies that revisit established findings and explore new questions about the neural basis of metaphor.

This Frontiers Research Topic will synthesize current findings on the cognitive neuroscience of metaphor, provide a forum for voicing novel perspectives, and promote new insights into the metaphorical brain.


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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