Willems, R. M., Oostenveld, R., & Hagoort, P. (2008). Early decreases in alpha and gamma band power distinguish linguistic from visual information during spoken sentence comprehension. Brain Research,1219, 78-90. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2008.04.065.
Language is often perceived together with visual information. This raises the question on how the brain integrates information conveyed in visual and/or linguistic format during spoken language comprehension. In this study we investigated the dynamics of semantic integration of visual and linguistic information by means of time-frequency analysis of the EEG signal. A modified version of the N400 paradigm with either a word or a picture of an object being semantically incongruous with respect to the preceding sentence context was employed. Event-Related Potential (ERP) analysis showed qualitatively similar N400 effects for integration of either word or picture. Time-frequency analysis revealed early specific decreases in alpha and gamma band power for linguistic and visual information respectively. We argue that these reflect a rapid context-based analysis of acoustic (word) or visual (picture) form information. We conclude that although full semantic integration of linguistic and visual information occurs through a common mechanism, early differences in oscillations in specific frequency bands reflect the format of the incoming information and, importantly, an early context-based detection of its congruity with respect to the preceding language context