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Tag: Language

Hearing sounds as words: Neural responses to environmental sounds in the context of fluent speech

Published in: Brain and Language, Volume 179, April 2018, 51-61 Abstract “Environmental sounds (ES) can be understood easily when substituted for words in sentences, suggesting that linguistic context benefits may be mediated by processes more general than some language-specific theories assert. However, the underlying neural processing is not understood. EEG was recorded for spoken sentences ending in either a spoken word or a corresponding ES. Endings were either congruent or incongruent with the sentence frame, and thus were expected to produce N400 activity. However, if ES and word meanings are combined with language context by different mechanisms, different N400 responses would… Read More

The motor features of action verbs: fMRI evidence using picture naming

Published in: Brain and Language, Volume 179, April 2018, 22-32 Abstract “The processing disadvantage of verbs compared to nouns and the greater vulnerability of verbs in brain damage have been ascribed to greater processing demands of morpho-syntactical or/and semantic properties for verbs, or/and visual complexity in picture-naming studies. Using picture naming, the current functional magnetic resonance imaging study examined the neural substrates underlying the semantic distinction between nouns and verbs. Under forced (externally-elicited) or free (internally-motivated) conditions, participants named a set of pictorial stimuli as objects or actions performed on/with the objects in Chinese. Use of a language with impoverished inflectional… Read More

Task-residual functional connectivity of language and attention networks

Published in: Brain and Cognition, Volume 122, April 2018, 52-58 Abstract “Functional connectivity using task-residual data capitalizes on remaining variance after mean task-related signal is removed from a time series. The degree of network specificity in language and attention domains featured by task-residual and resting-state data types were compared. Functional connectivity based on task-residual data evidenced stronger laterality of the language and attention connections and thus greater network specificity compared to resting-state functional connectivity of the same connections. Covariance between network nodes of task-residuals may thus reflect the degree to which two regions are coordinated in their specific activity, rather than… Read More

Effects of metric hierarchy and rhyme predictability on word duration in The Cat in the Hat

Published in: Cognition, Volume 174, May 2018, 71-81 Abstract “Word durations convey many types of linguistic information, including intrinsic lexical features like length and frequency and contextual features like syntactic and semantic structure. The current study was designed to investigate whether hierarchical metric structure and rhyme predictability account for durational variation over and above other features in productions of a rhyming, metrically-regular children’s book: The Cat in the Hat (Dr. Seuss, 1957). One-syllable word durations and inter-onset intervals were modeled as functions of segment number, lexical frequency, word class, syntactic structure, repetition, and font emphasis. Consistent with prior work, factors predicting longer word durations and… Read More

Alternative Solutions to a Language Design Problem: The Role of Adjectives and Gender Marking in Efficient Communication

Published in: Topics in Cognitive Science, Volume 10, Issue 1, 209-224 Abstract “A central goal of typological research is to characterize linguistic features in terms of both their functional role and their fit to social and cognitive systems. One long‐standing puzzle concerns why certain languages employ grammatical gender. In an information theoretic analysis of German noun classification, Dye, Milin, Futrell, and Ramscar (2017) enumerated a number of important processing advantages gender confers. Yet this raises a further puzzle: If gender systems are so beneficial to processing, what does this mean for languages that make do without them? Here, we compare the… Read More

What can autism teach us about the role of sensorimotor systems in higher cognition? New clues from studies on language, action semantics, and abstract emotional concept processing

Published in: Cortex, Volume 100, March 2018, 149-190 Abstract “Within the neurocognitive literature there is much debate about the role of the motor system in language, social communication and conceptual processing. We suggest, here, that autism spectrum conditions (ASC) may afford an excellent test case for investigating and evaluating contemporary neurocognitive models, most notably a neurobiological theory of action perception integration where widely-distributed cell assemblies linking neurons in action and perceptual brain regions act as the building blocks of many higher cognitive functions. We review a literature of functional motor abnormalities in ASC, following this with discussion of their neural correlates and aberrancies… Read More

When syntax meets action: Brain potential evidence of overlapping between language and motor sequencing

Published in: Cortex, Volume 100, March 2018, 40-51 Abstract “This study aims to extend the embodied cognition approach to syntactic processing. The hypothesis is that the brain resources to plan and perform motor sequences are also involved in syntactic processing. To test this hypothesis, Event-Related brain Potentials (ERPs) were recorded while participants read sentences with embedded relative clauses, judging for their acceptability (half of the sentences contained a subject-verb morphosyntactic disagreement). The sentences, previously divided into three segments, were self-administered segment-by-segment in two different sequential manners: linear or non-linear. Linear self-administration consisted of successively pressing three buttons with three consecutive fingers in the… Read More

Abstract semantics in the motor system? – An event-related fMRI study on passive reading of semantic word categories carrying abstract emotional and mental meaning

Published in: Cortex, Volume 100, March 2018, 52-70 Abstract “Previous research showed that modality-preferential sensorimotor areas are relevant for processing concrete words used to speak about actions. However, whether modality-preferential areas also play a role for abstract words is still under debate. Whereas recent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies suggest an involvement of motor cortex in processing the meaning of abstract emotion words as, for example, ‘love’, other non-emotional abstract words, in particular ‘mental words’, such as ‘thought’ or ‘logic’, are believed to engage ‘amodal’ semantic systems only. In the present event-related fMRI experiment, subjects passively read abstract emotional and mental nouns along with… Read More

Improved statistical learning abilities in adult bilinguals

Published in: Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, Volume 21, Issue 2, 427-433 Abstract “Using multiple languages may confer distinct advantages in cognitive control, yet it is unclear whether bilingualism is associated with better implicit statistical learning, a core cognitive ability underlying language. We tested bilingual adults on a challenging task requiring simultaneous learning of two miniature grammars characterized by different statistics. We found that participants learned each grammar significantly better than chance and both grammars equally well. Crucially, a validated continuous measure of bilingual dominance predicted accuracy scores for both artificial grammars in a generalized linear model. The study thus demonstrates the… Read More

From meaning to categorization: The hierarchical recruitment of brain circuits selective for action verbs

Published in: Cortex, Volume 100, March 2018, 95-100 Abstract “Sensorimotor and affective brain systems are known to be involved in language processing. However, to date it is still debated whether this involvement is a crucial step of semantic processing or, on the contrary, it is dependent on the specific context or strategy adopted to solve a task at hand. The present electroencephalographic (EEG) study is aimed at investigating which brain circuits are engaged when processing written verbs. By aligning event-related potentials (ERPs) both to the verb onset and to the motor response indexing the accomplishment of a semantic task of categorization, we were… Read More