Where the brain appreciates the moral of a story

Paolo Nichelli, Jordan Grafman*, Pietro Pietrini, Kimberley Clark, Kyu Young Lee, Robert Miletich

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


To identify the distributed brain regions used for appreciating the grammatical, semantic and thematic aspects of a story, regional cerebral blood flow was measured with positron emission tomography in nine normal volunteers during the reading of Aesop's fables. In four conditions, subjects had to monitor the fables for font changes, grammatical errors, a semantic feature associated with a fable character, and the moral of the fable. Both right and left prefrontal cortices were consistently, but selectively, activated across the grammatical, semantic, and moral conditions. In particular, appreciating the moral of a story required activating a distributed set of brain regions in the right hemisphere which included the temporal and prefrontal cortices. These findings emphasize that story processing engages a widely distributed network of brain regions, a subset of which become preferentially active during the processing of a specific aspect of the text.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2309-2313
Number of pages5
Issue number17
StatePublished - Nov 27 1995


  • Frontal lobes
  • PET
  • Story processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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