To detect that a conversational turn is intended to be ironic is a difficult challenge in everyday language comprehension. Most authors suggested a theory of mind deficit is crucial for irony comprehension deficits in psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia; however, the underlying pathophysiology and neurobiology are unknown and recent research highlights the possible role of language comprehension abnormalities.
Fifteen female right-handed subjects completed personality testing as well as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and neuropsychology. Subjects were recruited from the general population. No subject had a lifetime history of relevant psychiatric disorder; however, subjects differed in their score on the German version of the schizotypal personality questionnaire (SPQ). During fMRI scans, the subjects silently read 44 short text vignettes that ended in either an ironic or a literal statement. Imaging was performed using a 3 T Siemens scanner. The influence of schizotypy on brain activation was investigated by using an SPM5 regression analysis with the SPQ total score and the SPQ cognitive-perceptual score as regressors.
Reading ironic in contrast to literal sentences activated a bilateral network including left medial prefrontal and left inferior parietal gyri. During reading of ironic sentences, brain activation in the middle temporal gyrus of both hemispheres showed a significant negative association with the SPQ total score and the SPQ cognitive-perceptual score. Significant positive correlation with the SPQ total score was present in the left inferior frontal gyrus. We conclude schizotypal personality traits are associated with a dysfunctional lateral temporal language rather than a theory of mind network.
Table of Content
Table of Content3
Purpose of Study4
Theories of verbal irony7
Component skills for irony comprehension8
The role of neural development13
The role of social learning15
Results And Discussion21
Sample puppet show #150
Sample puppet show #250
Hide and go seek scenario50
To detect that a conversational turn is intended to be ironic is a difficult challenge in everyday language comprehension. Taken literally, an ironic expression is usually incorrect and often the opposite of what the speaker intends to communicate. Thus, to detect irony, the listener must go beyond the literal meaning ([Giora et al., 2007] and [Katz et al., 2004]). Linguistic irony is present in most languages and cultures ([Katz, 2000] and [Pexman, 2008]). Ironic talk can serve multiple communicative purposes (Gibbs, 2000) and is used especially in socially difficult situations ([Gibbs, 2000] and [Leggitt and Gibbs, 2000]). The cognitive processes behind irony comprehension have been of scientific interest for some time; however, the functional neuroanatomy behind irony detection is still unclear.
Some evidence on the neural correlates of irony comes from studies of patients with brain lesions and studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) (Table 1). This research comes from different theoretical backgrounds. Most lesion studies focussed on theory of mind processes involved in irony detection, but partially did not differentiate between lesions in the left versus the right hemisphere or did not account for linguistic variables. Few functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies investigated irony comprehension ([Eviatar and Just, 2006], [Uchiyama et al., 2006], [Wakusawa et ...