This is your brain on Nonliteral
May 31, 2005
UCSD scientists appear to have identified the area of the brain responsible for processing metaphors.
Vilayanur S. Ramachandran of the University of California at San Diego and his colleagues tested four patients who had experienced damage to the left angular gyrus region of their brains. All of the volunteers were fluent in English and otherwise intelligent, mentally lucid and able to engage in normal conversations. But when the researchers presented them with common proverbs and metaphors such as “the grass is always greener on the other side” and “reaching for the stars,” the subjects interpreted the sayings literally almost all of the time. After being pressed by the interviewers to provide deeper meaning, “the patients often came up with elaborate, even ingenious interpretations, that were completely off the mark,” Ramachandran remarks. For example, patient SJ expounded on “all that glitters is not gold” by noting that you should be careful when buying jewelry because the sellers could rob you of your money.