Understanding rumination as a form of inner speech : probing the role of motor processes

Rumination is known to be a predominantly verbal process and has been proposed to be considered as such as a dysfunctional form of inner speech (i.e., the silent production of words in one’s mind). On the other hand, research on the psychophysiology of inner speech revealed that the neural processes involved in overt and covert speech tend to be very similar. This is coherent with the idea that some forms of inner speech could be considered as a kind of simulation of overt speech, in the same way as imagined actions can be considered as the result of a simulation of the corresponding overt action (e.g., walking and imagined walking). In other words, the motor simulation hypothesis suggests that the speech motor system should be involved as well during inner speech production. The corollary hypothesis might be drawn, according to which the production of inner speech (and rumination) should be disrupted by a disruption of the speech motor system. We conducted a series of five studies a iming to probe the role of the speech motor system in rumination. Overall, our results highlight that although verbal rumination may be considered as a form of inner speech, it might not specifically involve the speech motor system. More precisely, we argue that rumination might be considered as a particularly strongly condensed form of inner speech that does not systematically involve fully specified articulatory features. We discuss these findings in relation to the habit-goal framework of depressive rumination and we discuss the implications of these findings for theories of inner speech production.