The neural basis of hand gesture comprehension: A meta-analysis of functional magnetic resonance imaging studies


Gestures play an important role in face-to-face communication and have been increasingly studied via functional magnetic resonance imaging. Although a large amount of data has been provided to describe the neural substrates of gesture comprehension, these findings have never been quantitatively summarized and the conclusion is still unclear. This activation likelihood estimation meta-analysis investigated the brain networks underpinning gesture comprehension while considering the impact of gesture type (co-speech gestures vs. speech-independent gestures) and task demand (implicit vs. explicit) on the brain activation of gesture comprehension. The meta-analysis of 31 papers showed that as hand actions, gestures involve a perceptual-motor network important for action recognition. As meaningful symbols, gestures involve a semantic network for conceptual processing. Finally, during face-to-face interactions, gestures involve a network for social emotive processes. Our finding also indicated that gesture type and task demand influence the involvement of the brain networks during gesture comprehension. The results highlight the complexity of gesture comprehension, and suggest that future research is necessary to clarify the dynamic interactions among these networks.

In Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews