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Neural mechanisms of communicative innovation

Stolk, A., Verhagen, L., Schoffelen, J.-M., Oostenveld, R., Blokpoel, M., Hagoort, P., van Rooij, I., & Tonia, I. (2013). Neural mechanisms of communicative innovation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110(36), 14574-14579. doi:10.1073/pnas.1303170110.
Human referential communication is often thought as coding-decoding a set of symbols, neglecting that establishing shared meanings requires a computational mechanism powerful enough to mutually negotiate them. Sharing the meaning of a novel symbol might rely on similar conceptual inferences across communicators or on statistical similarities in their sensorimotor behaviors. Using magnetoencephalography, we assess spectral, temporal, and spatial characteristics of neural activity evoked when people generate and understand novel shared symbols during live communicative interactions. Solving those communicative problems induced comparable changes in the spectral profile of neural activity of both communicators and addressees. This shared neuronal up-regulation was spatially localized to the right temporal lobe and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and emerged already before the occurrence of a specific communicative problem. Communicative innovation relies on neuronal computations that are shared across generating and understanding novel shared symbols, operating over temporal scales independent from transient sensorimotor behavior.
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The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

The institute is situated on the campus of the Radboud University. We participate in the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, and have particularly close ties to that institute's Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging. We also participate in the Centre for Language Studies. A joint graduate school, the IMPRS in Language Sciences, links the Donders Institute, the CLS and the MPI.


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