Publications

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  • Aparicio, X., Heidlmayr, K., & Isel, F. (2017). Inhibition Efficiency in Highly Proficient Bilinguals and Simultaneous Interpreters: Evidence from Language Switching and Stroop Tasks. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 46, 1427-1451. doi:10.1007/s10936-017-9501-3.

    Abstract

    The present behavioral study aimed to examine the impact of language control expertise on two domain-general control processes, i.e. active inhibition of competing representations and overcoming of inhibition. We compared how Simultaneous Interpreters (SI) and Highly Proficient Bilinguals—two groups assumed to differ in language control capacity—performed executive tasks involving specific inhibition processes. In Experiment 1 (language decision task), both active and overcoming of inhibition processes are involved, while in Experiment 2 (bilingual Stroop task) only interference suppression is supposed to be required. The results of Experiment 1 showed a language switching effect only for the highly proficient bilinguals, potentially because overcoming of inhibition requires more cognitive resources than in SI. Nevertheless, both groups performed similarly on the Stroop task in Experiment 2, which suggests that active inhibition may work similarly in both groups. These contrasting results suggest that overcoming of inhibition may be harder to master than active inhibition. Taken together, these data indicate that some executive control processes may be less sensitive to the degree of expertise in bilingual language control than others. Our findings lend support to psycholinguistic models of bilingualism postulating a higher-order mechanism regulating language activation.
  • Armeni, K., Willems, R. M., & Frank, S. (2017). Probabilistic language models in cognitive neuroscience: Promises and pitfalls. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 83, 579-588. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2017.09.001.

    Abstract

    Cognitive neuroscientists of language comprehension study how neural computations relate to cognitive computations during comprehension. On the cognitive part of the equation, it is important that the computations and processing complexity are explicitly defined. Probabilistic language models can be used to give a computationally explicit account of language complexity during comprehension. Whereas such models have so far predominantly been evaluated against behavioral data, only recently have the models been used to explain neurobiological signals. Measures obtained from these models emphasize the probabilistic, information-processing view of language understanding and provide a set of tools that can be used for testing neural hypotheses about language comprehension. Here, we provide a cursory review of the theoretical foundations and example neuroimaging studies employing probabilistic language models. We highlight the advantages and potential pitfalls of this approach and indicate avenues for future research
  • De Boer, M., Kokal, I., Blokpoel, M., Liu, R., Stolk, A., Roelofs, K., Van Rooij, I., & Toni, I. (2017). Oxytocin modulates human communication by enhancing cognitive exploration. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 86, 64-72. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2017.09.010.

    Abstract

    Oxytocin is a neuropeptide known to influence how humans share material resources. Here we explore whether oxytocin influences how we share knowledge. We focus on two distinguishing features of human communication, namely the ability to select communicative signals that disambiguate the many-to-many mappings that exist between a signal’s form and meaning, and adjustments of those signals to the presumed cognitive characteristics of the addressee (“audience design”). Fifty-five males participated in a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled experiment involving the intranasal administration of oxytocin. The participants produced novel non-verbal communicative signals towards two different addressees, an adult or a child, in an experimentally-controlled live interactive setting. We found that oxytocin administration drives participants to generate signals of higher referential quality, i.e. signals that disambiguate more communicative problems; and to rapidly adjust those communicative signals to what the addressee understands. The combined effects of oxytocin on referential quality and audience design fit with the notion that oxytocin administration leads participants to explore more pervasively behaviors that can convey their intention, and diverse models of the addressees. These findings suggest that, besides affecting prosocial drive and salience of social cues, oxytocin influences how we share knowledge by promoting cognitive exploration
  • Bosker, H. R., & Kösem, A. (2017). An entrained rhythm's frequency, not phase, influences temporal sampling of speech. In Proceedings of Interspeech 2017 (pp. 2416-2420). doi:10.21437/Interspeech.2017-73.

    Abstract

    Brain oscillations have been shown to track the slow amplitude fluctuations in speech during comprehension. Moreover, there is evidence that these stimulus-induced cortical rhythms may persist even after the driving stimulus has ceased. However, how exactly this neural entrainment shapes speech perception remains debated. This behavioral study investigated whether and how the frequency and phase of an entrained rhythm would influence the temporal sampling of subsequent speech. In two behavioral experiments, participants were presented with slow and fast isochronous tone sequences, followed by Dutch target words ambiguous between as /ɑs/ “ash” (with a short vowel) and aas /a:s/ “bait” (with a long vowel). Target words were presented at various phases of the entrained rhythm. Both experiments revealed effects of the frequency of the tone sequence on target word perception: fast sequences biased listeners to more long /a:s/ responses. However, no evidence for phase effects could be discerned. These findings show that an entrained rhythm’s frequency, but not phase, influences the temporal sampling of subsequent speech. These outcomes are compatible with theories suggesting that sensory timing is evaluated relative to entrained frequency. Furthermore, they suggest that phase tracking of (syllabic) rhythms by theta oscillations plays a limited role in speech parsing.
  • Bouhali, F., Mongelli, V., & Cohen, L. (2017). Musical literacy shifts asymmetries in the ventral visual cortex. NeuroImage, 156, 445-455. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2017.04.027.

    Abstract

    The acquisition of literacy has a profound impact on the functional specialization and lateralization of the visual cortex. Due to the overall lateralization of the language network, specialization for printed words develops in the left occipitotemporal cortex, allegedly inducing a secondary shift of visual face processing to the right, in literate as compared to illiterate subjects. Applying the same logic to the acquisition of high-level musical literacy, we predicted that, in musicians as compared to non-musicians, occipitotemporal activations should show a leftward shift for music reading, and an additional rightward push for face perception. To test these predictions, professional musicians and non-musicians viewed pictures of musical notation, faces, words, tools and houses in the MRI, and laterality was assessed in the ventral stream combining ROI and voxel-based approaches. The results supported both predictions, and allowed to locate the leftward shift to the inferior temporal gyrus and the rightward shift to the fusiform cortex. Moreover, these laterality shifts generalized to categories other than music and faces. Finally, correlation measures across subjects did not support a causal link between the leftward and rightward shifts. Thus the acquisition of an additional perceptual expertise extensively modifies the laterality pattern in the visual system

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  • Coco, M. I., Araujo, S., & Petersson, K. M. (2017). Disentangling stimulus plausibility and contextual congruency: Electro-physiological evidence for differential cognitive dynamics. Neuropsychologia, 96, 150-163. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2016.12.008.

    Abstract

    Expectancy mechanisms are routinely used by the cognitive system in stimulus processing and in anticipation of appropriate responses. Electrophysiology research has documented negative shifts of brain activity when expectancies are violated within a local stimulus context (e.g., reading an implausible word in a sentence) or more globally between consecutive stimuli (e.g., a narrative of images with an incongruent end). In this EEG study, we examine the interaction between expectancies operating at the level of stimulus plausibility and at more global level of contextual congruency to provide evidence for, or against, a disassociation of the underlying processing mechanisms. We asked participants to verify the congruency of pairs of cross-modal stimuli (a sentence and a scene), which varied in plausibility. ANOVAs on ERP amplitudes in selected windows of interest show that congruency violation has longer-lasting (from 100 to 500 ms) and more widespread effects than plausibility violation (from 200 to 400 ms). We also observed critical interactions between these factors, whereby incongruent and implausible pairs elicited stronger negative shifts than their congruent counterpart, both early on (100–200 ms) and between 400–500 ms. Our results suggest that the integration mechanisms are sensitive to both global and local effects of expectancy in a modality independent manner. Overall, we provide novel insights into the interdependence of expectancy during meaning integration of cross-modal stimuli in a verification task
  • Dai, B., McQueen, J. M., Hagoort, P., & Kösem, A. (2017). Pure linguistic interference during comprehension of competing speech signals. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 141, EL249-EL254. doi:10.1121/1.4977590.

    Abstract

    Speech-in-speech perception can be challenging because the processing of competing acoustic and linguistic information leads to informational masking. Here, a method is proposed to isolate the linguistic component of informational masking while keeping the distractor's acoustic information unchanged. Participants performed a dichotic listening cocktail-party task before and after training on 4-band noise-vocoded sentences that became intelligible through the training. Distracting noise-vocoded speech interfered more with target speech comprehension after training (i.e., when intelligible) than before training (i.e., when unintelligible) at −3 dB SNR. These findings confirm that linguistic and acoustic information have distinct masking effects during speech-in‐speech comprehension
  • Fitz, H., & Chang, F. (2017). Meaningful questions: The acquisition of auxiliary inversion in a connectionist model of sentence production. Cognition, 166, 225-250. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2017.05.008.

    Abstract

    Nativist theories have argued that language involves syntactic principles which are unlearnable from the input children receive. A paradigm case of these innate principles is the structure dependence of auxiliary inversion in complex polar questions (Chomsky, 1968, 1975, 1980). Computational approaches have focused on the properties of the input in explaining how children acquire these questions. In contrast, we argue that messages are structured in a way that supports structure dependence in syntax. We demonstrate this approach within a connectionist model of sentence production (Chang, 2009) which learned to generate a range of complex polar questions from a structured message without positive exemplars in the input. The model also generated different types of error in development that were similar in magnitude to those in children (e.g., auxiliary doubling, Ambridge, Rowland, & Pine, 2008; Crain & Nakayama, 1987). Through model comparisons we trace how meaning constraints and linguistic experience interact during the acquisition of auxiliary inversion. Our results suggest that auxiliary inversion rules in English can be acquired without innate syntactic principles, as long as it is assumed that speakers who ask complex questions express messages that are structured into multiple propositions
  • Frank, S. L., & Willems, R. M. (2017). Word predictability and semantic similarity show distinct patterns of brain activity during language comprehension. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 32(9), 1192-1203. doi:10.1080/23273798.2017.1323109.

    Abstract

    We investigate the effects of two types of relationship between the words of a sentence or text – predictability and semantic similarity – by reanalysing electroencephalography (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data from studies in which participants comprehend naturalistic stimuli. Each content word's predictability given previous words is quantified by a probabilistic language model, and semantic similarity to previous words is quantified by a distributional semantics model. Brain activity time-locked to each word is regressed on the two model-derived measures. Results show that predictability and semantic similarity have near identical N400 effects but are dissociated in the fMRI data, with word predictability related to activity in, among others, the visual word-form area, and semantic similarity related to activity in areas associated with the semantic network. This indicates that both predictability and similarity play a role during natural language comprehension and modulate distinct cortical regions.
  • Franken, M. K., Eisner, F., Schoffelen, J.-M., Acheson, D. J., Hagoort, P., & McQueen, J. M. (2017). Audiovisual recalibration of vowel categories. In Proceedings of Interspeech 2017 (pp. 655-658). doi:10.21437/Interspeech.2017-122.

    Abstract

    One of the most daunting tasks of a listener is to map a continuous auditory stream onto known speech sound categories and lexical items. A major issue with this mapping problem is the variability in the acoustic realizations of sound categories, both within and across speakers. Past research has suggested listeners may use visual information (e.g., lipreading) to calibrate these speech categories to the current speaker. Previous studies have focused on audiovisual recalibration of consonant categories. The present study explores whether vowel categorization, which is known to show less sharply defined category boundaries, also benefit from visual cues. Participants were exposed to videos of a speaker pronouncing one out of two vowels, paired with audio that was ambiguous between the two vowels. After exposure, it was found that participants had recalibrated their vowel categories. In addition, individual variability in audiovisual recalibration is discussed. It is suggested that listeners’ category sharpness may be related to the weight they assign to visual information in audiovisual speech perception. Specifically, listeners with less sharp categories assign more weight to visual information during audiovisual speech recognition.
  • Franken, M. K., Acheson, D. J., McQueen, J. M., Eisner, F., & Hagoort, P. (2017). Individual variability as a window on production-perception interactions in speech motor control. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 142(4), 2007-2018. doi:10.1121/1.5006899.

    Abstract

    An important part of understanding speech motor control consists of capturing the interaction between speech production and speech perception. This study tests a prediction of theoretical frameworks that have tried to account for these interactions: if speech production targets are specified in auditory terms, individuals with better auditory acuity should have more precise speech targets, evidenced by decreased within-phoneme variability and increased between-phoneme distance. A study was carried out consisting of perception and production tasks in counterbalanced order. Auditory acuity was assessed using an adaptive speech discrimination task, while production variability was determined using a pseudo-word reading task. Analyses of the production data were carried out to quantify average within-phoneme variability as well as average between-phoneme contrasts. Results show that individuals not only vary in their production and perceptual abilities, but that better discriminators have more distinctive vowel production targets (that is, targets with less within-phoneme variability and greater between-phoneme distances), confirming the initial hypothesis. This association between speech production and perception did not depend on local phoneme density in vowel space. This study suggests that better auditory acuity leads to more precise speech production targets, which may be a consequence of auditory feedback affecting speech production over time.
  • Grabot, L., Kösem, A., Azizi, L., & Van Wassenhove, V. (2017). Prestimulus Alpha Oscillations and the Temporal Sequencing of Audio-visual Events. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 29(9), 1566-1582. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_01145.

    Abstract

    Perceiving the temporal order of sensory events typically depends on participants' attentional state, thus likely on the endogenous fluctuations of brain activity. Using magnetoencephalography, we sought to determine whether spontaneous brain oscillations could disambiguate the perceived order of auditory and visual events presented in close temporal proximity, that is, at the individual's perceptual order threshold (Point of Subjective Simultaneity [PSS]). Two neural responses were found to index an individual's temporal order perception when contrasting brain activity as a function of perceived order (i.e., perceiving the sound first vs. perceiving the visual event first) given the same physical audiovisual sequence. First, average differences in prestimulus auditory alpha power indicated perceiving the correct ordering of audiovisual events irrespective of which sensory modality came first: a relatively low alpha power indicated perceiving auditory or visual first as a function of the actual sequence order. Additionally, the relative changes in the amplitude of the auditory (but not visual) evoked responses were correlated with participant's correct performance. Crucially, the sign of the magnitude difference in prestimulus alpha power and evoked responses between perceived audiovisual orders correlated with an individual's PSS. Taken together, our results suggest that spontaneous oscillatory activity cannot disambiguate subjective temporal order without prior knowledge of the individual's bias toward perceiving one or the other sensory modality first. Altogether, our results suggest that, under high perceptual uncertainty, the magnitude of prestimulus alpha (de)synchronization indicates the amount of compensation needed to overcome an individual's prior in the serial ordering and temporal sequencing of information
  • Hagoort, P. (2017). Don't forget neurobiology: An experimental approach to linguistic representation. Commentary on Branigan and Pickering "An experimental approach to linguistic representation". Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 40: e292. doi:10.1017/S0140525X17000401.

    Abstract

    Acceptability judgments are no longer acceptable as the holy grail for testing the nature of linguistic representations. Experimental and quantitative methods should be used to test theoretical claims in psycholinguistics. These methods should include not only behavior, but also the more recent possibilities to probe the neural codes for language-relevant representation
  • Hagoort, P. (2017). It is the facts, stupid. In J. Brockman, F. Van der Wa, & H. Corver (Eds.), Wetenschappelijke parels: het belangrijkste wetenschappelijke nieuws volgens 193 'briljante geesten'. Amsterdam: Maven Press.
  • Hagoort, P. (2017). The core and beyond in the language-ready brain. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 81, 194-204. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2017.01.048.

    Abstract

    In this paper a general cognitive architecture of spoken language processing is specified. This is followed by an account of how this cognitive architecture is instantiated in the human brain. Both the spatial aspects of the networks for language are discussed, as well as the temporal dynamics and the underlying neurophysiology. A distinction is proposed between networks for coding/decoding linguistic information and additional networks for getting from coded meaning to speaker meaning, i.e. for making the inferences that enable the listener to understand the intentions of the speaker
  • Hagoort, P. (2017). The neural basis for primary and acquired language skills. In E. Segers, & P. Van den Broek (Eds.), Developmental Perspectives in Written Language and Literacy: In honor of Ludo Verhoeven (pp. 17-28). Amsterdam: Benjamins. doi:10.1075/z.206.02hag.

    Abstract

    Reading is a cultural invention that needs to recruit cortical infrastructure that was not designed for it (cultural recycling of cortical maps). In the case of reading both visual cortex and networks for speech processing are recruited. Here I discuss current views on the neurobiological underpinnings of spoken language that deviate in a number of ways from the classical Wernicke-Lichtheim-Geschwind model. More areas than Broca’s and Wernicke’s region are involved in language. Moreover, a division along the axis of language production and language comprehension does not seem to be warranted. Instead, for central aspects of language processing neural infrastructure is shared between production and comprehension. Arguments are presented in favor of a dynamic network view, in which the functionality of a region is co-determined by the network of regions in which it is embedded at particular moments in time. Finally, core regions of language processing need to interact with other networks (e.g. the attentional networks and the ToM network) to establish full functionality of language and communication. The consequences of this architecture for reading are discussed.
  • Hartung, F. (2017). Getting under your skin: The role of perspective and simulation of experience in narrative comprehension. PhD Thesis, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen.
  • Hartung, F., Hagoort, P., & Willems, R. M. (2017). Readers select a comprehension mode independent of pronoun: Evidence from fMRI during narrative comprehension. Brain and Language, 170, 29-38. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2017.03.007.

    Abstract

    Perspective is a crucial feature for communicating about events. Yet it is unclear how linguistically encoded perspective relates to cognitive perspective taking. Here, we tested the effect of perspective taking with short literary stories. Participants listened to stories with 1st or 3rd person pronouns referring to the protagonist, while undergoing fMRI. When comparing action events with 1st and 3rd person pronouns, we found no evidence for a neural dissociation depending on the pronoun. A split sample approach based on the self-reported experience of perspective taking revealed 3 comprehension preferences. One group showed a strong 1st person preference, another a strong 3rd person preference, while a third group engaged in 1st and 3rd person perspective taking simultaneously. Comparing brain activations of the groups revealed different neural networks. Our results suggest that comprehension is perspective dependent, but not on the perspective suggested by the text, but on the reader’s (situational) preference
  • Hartung, F., Withers, P., Hagoort, P., & Willems, R. M. (2017). When fiction is just as real as fact: No differences in reading behavior between stories believed to be based on true or fictional events. Frontiers in Psychology, 8: 1618. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01618.

    Abstract

    Experiments have shown that compared to fictional texts, readers read factual texts faster and have better memory for described situations. Reading fictional texts on the other hand seems to improve memory for exact wordings and expressions. Most of these studies used a ‘newspaper’ versus ‘literature’ comparison. In the present study, we investigated the effect of reader’s expectation to whether information is true or fictional with a subtler manipulation by labelling short stories as either based on true or fictional events. In addition, we tested whether narrative perspective or individual preference in perspective taking affects reading true or fictional stories differently. In an online experiment, participants (final N=1742) read one story which was introduced as based on true events or as fictional (factor fictionality). The story could be narrated in either 1st or 3rd person perspective (factor perspective). We measured immersion in and appreciation of the story, perspective taking, as well as memory for events. We found no evidence that knowing a story is fictional or based on true events influences reading behavior or experiential aspects of reading. We suggest that it is not whether a story is true or fictional, but rather expectations towards certain reading situations (e.g. reading newspaper or literature) which affect behavior by activating appropriate reading goals. Results further confirm that narrative perspective partially influences perspective taking and experiential aspects of reading
  • Heyselaar, E., Hagoort, P., & Segaert, K. (2017). How social opinion influences syntactic processing – An investigation using virtual reality. PLoS One, 12(4): e0174405. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0174405.
  • Heyselaar, E. (2017). Influences on the magnitude of syntactic priming. PhD Thesis, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen.
  • Heyselaar, E., Hagoort, P., & Segaert, K. (2017). In dialogue with an avatar, language behavior is identical to dialogue with a human partner. Behavior Research Methods, 49(1), 46-60. doi:10.3758/s13428-015-0688-7.

    Abstract

    The use of virtual reality (VR) as a methodological tool is becoming increasingly popular in behavioral research as its flexibility allows for a wide range of applications. This new method has not been as widely accepted in the field of psycholinguistics, however, possibly due to the assumption that language processing during human-computer interactions does not accurately reflect human-human interactions. Yet at the same time there is a growing need to study human-human language interactions in a tightly controlled context, which has not been possible using existing methods. VR, however, offers experimental control over parameters that cannot be (as finely) controlled in the real world. As such, in this study we aim to show that human-computer language interaction is comparable to human-human language interaction in virtual reality. In the current study we compare participants’ language behavior in a syntactic priming task with human versus computer partners: we used a human partner, a human-like avatar with human-like facial expressions and verbal behavior, and a computer-like avatar which had this humanness removed. As predicted, our study shows comparable priming effects between the human and human-like avatar suggesting that participants attributed human-like agency to the human-like avatar. Indeed, when interacting with the computer-like avatar, the priming effect was significantly decreased. This suggests that when interacting with a human-like avatar, sentence processing is comparable to interacting with a human partner. Our study therefore shows that VR is a valid platform for conducting language research and studying dialogue interactions in an ecologically valid manner.
  • Heyselaar, E., Segaert, K., Walvoort, S. J., Kessels, R. P., & Hagoort, P. (2017). The role of nondeclarative memory in the skill for language: Evidence from syntactic priming in patients with amnesia. Neuropsychologia, 101, 97-105. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2017.04.033.

    Abstract

    Syntactic priming, the phenomenon in which participants adopt the linguistic behaviour of their partner, is widely used in psycholinguistics to investigate syntactic operations. Although the phenomenon of syntactic priming is well documented, the memory system that supports the retention of this syntactic information long enough to influence future utterances, is not as widely investigated. We aim to shed light on this issue by assessing patients with Korsakoff's amnesia on an active-passive syntactic priming task and compare their performance to controls matched in age, education, and premorbid intelligence. Patients with Korsakoff's syndrome display deficits in all subdomains of declarative memory, yet their nondeclarative memory remains intact, making them an ideal patient group to determine which memory system supports syntactic priming. In line with the hypothesis that syntactic priming relies on nondeclarative memory, the patient group shows strong priming tendencies (12.6% passive structure repetition). Our healthy control group did not show a priming tendency, presumably due to cognitive interference between declarative and nondeclarative memory. We discuss the results in relation to amnesia, aging, and compensatory mechanisms.
  • Hirschmann, J., Schoffelen, J.-M., Schnitzler, A., & Van Gerven, M. A. J. (2017). Parkinsonian rest tremor can be detected accurately based on neuronal oscillations recorded from the subthalamic nucleus. Clinical Neurophysiology, 128, 2029-2036. doi:10.1016/j.clinph.2017.07.419.

    Abstract

    Objective: To investigate the possibility of tremor detection based on deep brain activity. Methods: We re-analyzed recordings of local field potentials (LFPs) from the subthalamic nucleus in 10 PD patients (12 body sides) with spontaneously fluctuating rest tremor. Power in several frequency bands was estimated and used as input to Hidden Markov Models (HMMs) which classified short data segments as either tremor-free rest or rest tremor. HMMs were compared to direct threshold application to individual power features. Results: Applying a threshold directly to band-limited power was insufficient for tremor detection (mean area under the curve [AUC] of receiver operating characteristic: 0.64, STD: 0.19). Multi-feature HMMs, in contrast, allowed for accurate detection (mean AUC: 0.82, STD: 0.15), using four power features obtained from a single contact pair. Within-patient training yielded better accuracy than across-patient training (0.84 vs. 0.78, p = 0.03), yet tremor could often be detected accurately with either approach. High frequency oscillations (>200 Hz) were the best performing individual feature. Conclusions: LFP-based markers of tremor are robust enough to allow for accurate tremor detection in short data segments, provided that appropriate statistical models are used. Significance: LFP-based markers of tremor could be useful control signals for closed-loop deep brain stimulation.
  • Ito, A., Martin, A. E., & Nieuwland, M. S. (2017). Why the A/AN prediction effect may be hard to replicate: A rebuttal to DeLong, Urbach & Kutas (2017). Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 32(8), 974-983. doi:10.1080/23273798.2017.1323112.
  • Kita, S., Alibali, M. W., & Chu, M. (2017). How Do Gestures Influence Thinking and Speaking? The Gesture-for-Conceptualization Hypothesis. Psychological Review, 124(3), 245-266. doi:10.1037/rev0000059.

    Abstract

    People spontaneously produce gestures during speaking and thinking. The authors focus here on gestures that depict or indicate information related to the contents of concurrent speech or thought (i.e., representational gestures). Previous research indicates that such gestures have not only communicative functions, but also self-oriented cognitive functions. In this article, the authors propose a new theoretical framework, the gesture-for-conceptualization hypothesis, which explains the self-oriented functions of representational gestures. According to this framework, representational gestures affect cognitive processes in 4 main ways: gestures activate, manipulate, package, and explore spatio-motoric information for speaking and thinking. These four functions are shaped by gesture's ability to schematize information, that is, to focus on a small subset of available information that is potentially relevant to the task at hand. The framework is based on the assumption that gestures are generated from the same system that generates practical actions, such as object manipulation; however, gestures are distinct from practical actions in that they represent information. The framework provides a novel, parsimonious, and comprehensive account of the self-oriented functions of gestures. The authors discuss how the framework accounts for gestures that depict abstract or metaphoric content, and they consider implications for the relations between self-oriented and communicative functions of gestures
  • Kösem, A., & Van Wassenhove, V. (2017). Distinct contributions of low and high frequency neural oscillations to speech comprehension. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 32(5), 536-544. doi:10.1080/23273798.2016.1238495.

    Abstract

    In the last decade, the involvement of neural oscillatory mechanisms in speech comprehension has been increasingly investigated. Current evidence suggests that low-frequency and high-frequency neural entrainment to the acoustic dynamics of speech are linked to its analysis. One crucial question is whether acoustical processing primarily modulates neural entrainment, or whether entrainment instead reflects linguistic processing. Here, we review studies investigating the effect of linguistic manipulations on neural oscillatory activity. In light of the current findings, we argue that theta (3–8 Hz) entrainment may primarily reflect the analysis of the acoustic features of speech. In contrast, recent evidence suggests that delta (1–3 Hz) and high-frequency activity (>40 Hz) are reliable indicators of perceived linguistic representations. The interdependence between low-frequency and high-frequency neural oscillations, as well as their causal role on speech comprehension, is further discussed with regard to neurophysiological models of speech processing
  • Kunert, R., & Jongman, S. R. (2017). Entrainment to an auditory signal: Is attention involved? Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 146(1), 77-88. doi:10.1037/xge0000246.

    Abstract

    Many natural auditory signals, including music and language, change periodically. The effect of such auditory rhythms on the brain is unclear however. One widely held view, dynamic attending theory, proposes that the attentional system entrains to the rhythm and increases attention at moments of rhythmic salience. In support, 2 experiments reported here show reduced response times to visual letter strings shown at auditory rhythm peaks, compared with rhythm troughs. However, we argue that an account invoking the entrainment of general attention should further predict rhythm entrainment to also influence memory for visual stimuli. In 2 pseudoword memory experiments we find evidence against this prediction. Whether a pseudoword is shown during an auditory rhythm peak or not is irrelevant for its later recognition memory in silence. Other attention manipulations, dividing attention and focusing attention, did result in a memory effect. This raises doubts about the suggested attentional nature of rhythm entrainment. We interpret our findings as support for auditory rhythm perception being based on auditory-motor entrainment, not general attention entrainment.
  • Kunert, R. (2017). Music and language comprehension in the brain. PhD Thesis, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen.
  • Lam, N. H. L. (2017). Comprehending comprehension: Insights from neuronal oscillations on the neuronal basis of language. PhD Thesis, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen.
  • Lam, K. J. Y., Bastiaansen, M. C. M., Dijkstra, T., & Rueschemeyer, S. A. (2017). Making sense: motor activation and action plausibility during sentence processing. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 32(5), 590-600. doi:10.1080/23273798.2016.1164323.

    Abstract

    The current electroencephalography study investigated the relationship between the motor and (language) comprehension systems by simultaneously measuring mu and N400 effects. Specifically, we examined whether the pattern of motor activation elicited by verbs depends on the larger sentential context. A robust N400 congruence effect confirmed the contextual manipulation of action plausibility, a form of semantic congruency. Importantly, this study showed that: (1) Action verbs elicited more mu power decrease than non-action verbs when sentences described plausible actions. Action verbs thus elicited more motor activation than non-action verbs. (2) In contrast, when sentences described implausible actions, mu activity was present but the difference between the verb types was not observed. The increased processing associated with a larger N400 thus coincided with mu activity in sentences describing implausible actions. Altogether, context-dependent motor activation appears to play a functional role in deriving context-sensitive meaning
  • Lewis, A. G., Schoffelen, J.-M., Hoffmann, C., Bastiaansen, M. C. M., & Schriefers, H. (2017). Discourse-level semantic coherence influences beta oscillatory dynamics and the N400 during sentence comprehension. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 32(5), 601-617. doi:10.1080/23273798.2016.1211300.

    Abstract

    In this study, we used electroencephalography to investigate the influence of discourse-level semantic coherence on electrophysiological signatures of local sentence-level processing. Participants read groups of four sentences that could either form coherent stories or were semantically unrelated. For semantically coherent discourses compared to incoherent ones, the N400 was smaller at sentences 2–4, while the visual N1 was larger at the third and fourth sentences. Oscillatory activity in the beta frequency range (13–21 Hz) was higher for coherent discourses. We relate the N400 effect to a disruption of local sentence-level semantic processing when sentences are unrelated. Our beta findings can be tentatively related to disruption of local sentence-level syntactic processing, but it cannot be fully ruled out that they are instead (or also) related to disrupted local sentence-level semantic processing. We conclude that manipulating discourse-level semantic coherence does have an effect on oscillatory power related to local sentence-level processing.
  • Lewis, A. G. (2017). Explorations of beta-band neural oscillations during language comprehension: Sentence processing and beyond. PhD Thesis, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen.
  • Lockwood, G. (2017). Talking sense: The behavioural and neural correlates of sound symbolism. PhD Thesis, Radboud University, Nijmegen.
  • Lopopolo, A., Frank, S. L., Van den Bosch, A., & Willems, R. M. (2017). Using stochastic language models (SLM) to map lexical, syntactic, and phonological information processing in the brain. PLoS One, 12(5): e0177794. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0177794.

    Abstract

    Language comprehension involves the simultaneous processing of information at the phonological, syntactic, and lexical level. We track these three distinct streams of information in the brain by using stochastic measures derived from computational language models to detect neural correlates of phoneme, part-of-speech, and word processing in an fMRI experiment. Probabilistic language models have proven to be useful tools for studying how language is processed as a sequence of symbols unfolding in time. Conditional probabilities between sequences of words are at the basis of probabilistic measures such as surprisal and perplexity which have been successfully used as predictors of several behavioural and neural correlates of sentence processing. Here we computed perplexity from sequences of words and their parts of speech, and their phonemic transcriptions. Brain activity time-locked to each word is regressed on the three model-derived measures. We observe that the brain keeps track of the statistical structure of lexical, syntactic and phonological information in distinct areas.

    Additional information

    Data availability
  • Martin, A. E., Huettig, F., & Nieuwland, M. S. (2017). Can structural priming answer the important questions about language? A commentary on Branigan and Pickering "An experimental approach to linguistic representation". Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 40: e304. doi:10.1017/S0140525X17000528.

    Abstract

    While structural priming makes a valuable contribution to psycholinguistics, it does not allow direct observation of representation, nor escape “source ambiguity.” Structural priming taps into implicit memory representations and processes that may differ from what is used online. We question whether implicit memory for language can and should be equated with linguistic representation or with language processing.
  • Nieuwland, M. S., & Martin, A. E. (2017). Neural oscillations and a nascent corticohippocampal theory of reference. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 29(5), 896-910. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_01091.

    Abstract

    The ability to use words to refer to the world is vital to the communicative power of human language. In particular, the anaphoric use of words to refer to previously mentioned concepts (antecedents) allows dialogue to be coherent and meaningful. Psycholinguistic theory posits that anaphor comprehension involves reactivating a memory representation of the antecedent. Whereas this implies the involvement of recognition memory, or the mnemonic sub-routines by which people distinguish old from new, the neural processes for reference resolution are largely unknown. Here, we report time-frequency analysis of four EEG experiments to reveal the increased coupling of functional neural systems associated with referentially coherent expressions compared to referentially problematic expressions. Despite varying in modality, language, and type of referential expression, all experiments showed larger gamma-band power for referentially coherent expressions compared to referentially problematic expressions. Beamformer analysis in high-density Experiment 4 localised the gamma-band increase to posterior parietal cortex around 400-600 ms after anaphor-onset and to frontaltemporal cortex around 500-1000 ms. We argue that the observed gamma-band power increases reflect successful referential binding and resolution, which links incoming information to antecedents through an interaction between the brain’s recognition memory networks and frontal-temporal language network. We integrate these findings with previous results from patient and neuroimaging studies, and we outline a nascent cortico-hippocampal theory of reference.
  • Peeters, D., Snijders, T. M., Hagoort, P., & Ozyurek, A. (2017). Linking language to the visual world: Neural correlates of comprehending verbal reference to objects through pointing and visual cues. Neuropsychologia, 95, 21-29. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2016.12.004.

    Abstract

    In everyday communication speakers often refer in speech and/or gesture to objects in their immediate environment, thereby shifting their addressee's attention to an intended referent. The neurobiological infrastructure involved in the comprehension of such basic multimodal communicative acts remains unclear. In an event-related fMRI study, we presented participants with pictures of a speaker and two objects while they concurrently listened to her speech. In each picture, one of the objects was singled out, either through the speaker's index-finger pointing gesture or through a visual cue that made the object perceptually more salient in the absence of gesture. A mismatch (compared to a match) between speech and the object singled out by the speaker's pointing gesture led to enhanced activation in left IFG and bilateral pMTG, showing the importance of these areas in conceptual matching between speech and referent. Moreover, a match (compared to a mismatch) between speech and the object made salient through a visual cue led to enhanced activation in the mentalizing system, arguably reflecting an attempt to converge on a jointly attended referent in the absence of pointing. These findings shed new light on the neurobiological underpinnings of the core communicative process of comprehending a speaker's multimodal referential act and stress the power of pointing as an important natural device to link speech to objects.
  • Rommers, J., Dickson, D. S., Norton, J. J. S., Wlotko, E. W., & Federmeier, K. D. (2017). Alpha and theta band dynamics related to sentential constraint and word expectancy. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 32(5), 576-589. doi:10.1080/23273798.2016.1183799.

    Abstract

    Despite strong evidence for prediction during language comprehension, the underlying mechanisms, and the extent to which they are specific to language, remain unclear. Re-analysing an event-related potentials study, we examined responses in the time-frequency domain to expected and unexpected (but plausible) words in strongly and weakly constraining sentences, and found results similar to those reported in nonverbal domains. Relative to expected words, unexpected words elicited an increase in the theta band (4–7 Hz) in strongly constraining contexts, suggesting the involvement of control processes to deal with the consequences of having a prediction disconfirmed. Prior to critical word onset, strongly constraining sentences exhibited a decrease in the alpha band (8–12 Hz) relative to weakly constraining sentences, suggesting that comprehenders can take advantage of predictive sentence contexts to prepare for the input. The results suggest that the brain recruits domain-general preparation and control mechanisms when making and assessing predictions during sentence comprehension
  • Rommers, J., Meyer, A. S., & Praamstra, P. (2017). Lateralized electrical brain activity reveals covert attention allocation during speaking. Neuropsychologia, 95, 101-110. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2016.12.013.

    Abstract

    Speakers usually begin to speak while only part of the utterance has been planned. Earlier work has shown that speech planning processes are reflected in speakers’ eye movements as they describe visually presented objects. However, to-be-named objects can be processed to some extent before they have been fixated upon, presumably because attention can be allocated to objects covertly, without moving the eyes. The present study investigated whether EEG could track speakers’ covert attention allocation as they produced short utterances to describe pairs of objects (e.g., “dog and chair”). The processing difficulty of each object was varied by presenting it in upright orientation (easy) or in upside down orientation (difficult). Background squares flickered at different frequencies in order to elicit steady-state visual evoked potentials (SSVEPs). The N2pc component, associated with the focusing of attention on an item, was detectable not only prior to speech onset, but also during speaking. The time course of the N2pc showed that attention shifted to each object in the order of mention prior to speech onset. Furthermore, greater processing difficulty increased the time speakers spent attending to each object. This demonstrates that the N2pc can track covert attention allocation in a naming task. In addition, an effect of processing difficulty at around 200–350 ms after stimulus onset revealed early attention allocation to the second to-be-named object. The flickering backgrounds elicited SSVEPs, but SSVEP amplitude was not influenced by processing difficulty. These results help complete the picture of the coordination of visual information uptake and motor output during speaking.
  • Schoffelen, J.-M., Hulten, A., Lam, N. H. L., Marquand, A. F., Udden, J., & Hagoort, P. (2017). Frequency-specific directed interactions in the human brain network for language. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 114(30), 8083-8088. doi:10.1073/pnas.1703155114.

    Abstract

    The brain’s remarkable capacity for language requires bidirectional interactions between functionally specialized brain regions. We used magnetoencephalography to investigate interregional interactions in the brain network for language while 102 participants were reading sentences. Using Granger causality analysis, we identified inferior frontal cortex and anterior temporal regions to receive widespread input and middle temporal regions to send widespread output. This fits well with the notion that these regions play a central role in language processing. Characterization of the functional topology of this network, using data-driven matrix factorization, which allowed for partitioning into a set of subnetworks, revealed directed connections at distinct frequencies of interaction. Connections originating from temporal regions peaked at alpha frequency, whereas connections originating from frontal and parietal regions peaked at beta frequency. These findings indicate that the information flow between language-relevant brain areas, which is required for linguistic processing, may depend on the contributions of distinct brain rhythms

    Additional information

    pnas.201703155SI.pdf
  • Schoot, L. (2017). Language processing in a conversation context. PhD Thesis, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen.
  • Shitova, N., Roelofs, A., Schriefers, H., Bastiaansen, M., & Schoffelen, J.-M. (2017). Control adjustments in speaking: Electrophysiology of the Gratton effect in picture naming. Cortex, 92, 289-303. doi:10.1016/j.cortex.2017.04.017.

    Abstract

    Accumulating evidence suggests that spoken word production requires different amounts of top-down control depending on the prevailing circumstances. For example, during Stroop-like tasks, the interference in response time (RT) is typically larger following congruent trials than following incongruent trials. This effect is called the Gratton effect, and has been taken to reflect top-down control adjustments based on the previous trial type. Such control adjustments have been studied extensively in Stroop and Eriksen flanker tasks (mostly using manual responses), but not in the picture-word interference (PWI) task, which is a workhorse of language production research. In one of the few studies of the Gratton effect in PWI, Van Maanen and Van Rijn (2010) examined the effect in picture naming RTs during dual-task performance. Based on PWI effect differences between dual-task conditions, they argued that the functional locus of the PWI effect differs between post-congruent trials (i.e., locus in perceptual and conceptual encoding) and post-incongruent trials (i.e., locus in word planning). However, the dual-task procedure may have contaminated the results. We therefore performed an EEG study on the Gratton effect in a regular PWI task. We observed a PWI effect in the RTs, in the N400 component of the event-related brain potentials, and in the midfrontal theta power, regardless of the previous trial type. Moreover, the RTs, N400, and theta power reflected the Gratton effect. These results provide evidence that the PWI effect arises at the word planning stage following both congruent and incongruent trials, while the amount of top-down control changes depending on the previous trial type.
  • Silva, S., Inácio, F., Folia, V., & Petersson, K. M. (2017). Eye movements in implicit artificial grammar learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 43(9), 1387-1402. doi:10.1037/xlm0000350.

    Abstract

    Artificial grammar learning (AGL) has been probed with forced-choice behavioral tests (active tests). Recent attempts to probe the outcomes of learning (implicitly acquired knowledge) with eye-movement responses (passive tests) have shown null results. However, these latter studies have not tested for sensitivity effects, for example, increased eye movements on a printed violation. In this study, we tested for sensitivity effects in AGL tests with (Experiment 1) and without (Experiment 2) concurrent active tests (preference- and grammaticality classification) in an eye-tracking experiment. Eye movements discriminated between sequence types in passive tests and more so in active tests. The eye-movement profile did not differ between preference and grammaticality classification, and it resembled sensitivity effects commonly observed in natural syntax processing. Our findings show that the outcomes of implicit structured sequence learning can be characterized in eye tracking. More specifically, whole trial measures (dwell time, number of fixations) showed robust AGL effects, whereas first-pass measures (first-fixation duration) did not. Furthermore, our findings strengthen the link between artificial and natural syntax processing, and they shed light on the factors that determine performance differences in preference and grammaticality classification tests
  • Silva, S., Petersson, K. M., & Castro, S. L. (2017). The effects of ordinal load on incidental temporal learning. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 70(4), 664-674. doi:10.1080/17470218.2016.1146909.

    Abstract

    How can we grasp the temporal structure of events? A few studies have indicated that representations of temporal structure are acquired when there is an intention to learn, but not when learning is incidental. Response-to-stimulus intervals, uncorrelated temporal structures, unpredictable ordinal information, and lack of metrical organization have been pointed out as key obstacles to incidental temporal learning, but the literature includes piecemeal demonstrations of learning under all these circumstances. We suggest that the unacknowledged effects of ordinal load may help reconcile these conflicting findings, ordinal load referring to the cost of identifying the sequence of events (e.g., tones, locations) where a temporal pattern is embedded. In a first experiment, we manipulated ordinal load into simple and complex levels. Participants learned ordinal-simple sequences, despite their uncorrelated temporal structure and lack of metrical organization. They did not learn ordinal-complex sequences, even though there were no response-to-stimulus intervals nor unpredictable ordinal information. In a second experiment, we probed learning of ordinal-complex sequences with strong metrical organization, and again there was no learning. We conclude that ordinal load is a key obstacle to incidental temporal learning. Further analyses showed that the effect of ordinal load is to mask the expression of temporal knowledge, rather than to prevent learning.
  • Silva, S., Folia, V., Hagoort, P., & Petersson, K. M. (2017). The P600 in Implicit Artificial Grammar Learning. Cognitive Science, 41(1), 137-157. doi:10.1111/cogs.12343.

    Abstract

    The suitability of the Artificial Grammar Learning (AGL) paradigm to capture relevant aspects of the acquisition of linguistic structures has been empirically tested in a number of EEG studies. Some have shown a syntax-related P600 component, but it has not been ruled out that the AGL P600 effect is a response to surface features (e.g., subsequence familiarity) rather than the underlying syntax structure. Therefore, in this study, we controlled for the surface characteristics of the test sequences (associative chunk strength) and recorded the EEG before (baseline preference classification) and after (preference and grammaticality classification) exposure to a grammar. A typical, centroparietal P600 effect was elicited by grammatical violations after exposure, suggesting that the AGL P600 effect signals a response to structural irregularities. Moreover, preference and grammaticality classification showed a qualitatively similar ERP profile, strengthening the idea that the implicit structural mere exposure paradigm in combination with preference classification is a suitable alternative to the traditional grammaticality classification test.
  • Simon, E., & Sjerps, M. J. (2017). Phonological category quality in the mental lexicon of child and adult learners. International Journal of Bilingualism, 21(4), 474-499. doi:10.1177/1367006915626589.

    Abstract

    Aims and objectives: The aim was to identify which criteria children use to decide on the category membership of native and non-native vowels, and to get insight into the organization of phonological representations in the bilingual mind. Methodology: The study consisted of two cross-language mispronunciation detection tasks in which L2 vowels were inserted into L1 words and vice versa. In Experiment 1, 10- to 12-year-old Dutch-speaking children were presented with Dutch words which were either pronounced with the target Dutch vowel or with an English vowel inserted in the Dutch consonantal frame. Experiment 2 was a mirror of the first, with English words which were pronounced “correctly” or which were “mispronounced” with a Dutch vowel. Data and analysis: Analyses focused on extent to which child and adult listeners accepted substitutions of Dutch vowels by English ones, and vice versa. Findings: The results of Experiment 1 revealed that between the age of ten and twelve children have well-established phonological vowel categories in their native language. However, Experiment 2 showed that in their non-native language, children tended to accept mispronounced items which involve sounds from their native language. At the same time, though, they did not fully rely on their native phonemic inventory because the children accepted most of the correctly pronounced English items. Originality: While many studies have examined native and non-native perception by infants and adults, studies on first and second language perception of school-age children are rare. This study adds to the body of literature aimed at expanding our knowledge in this area. Implications: The study has implications for models of the organization of the bilingual mind: while proficient adult non-native listeners generally have clearly separated sets of phonological representations for their two languages, for non-proficient child learners the L1 phonology still exerts a strong influence on the L2 phonology.
  • Soutschek, A., Burke, C. J., Beharelle, A. R., Schreiber, R., Weber, S. C., Karipidis, I. I., Ten Velden, J., Weber, B., Haker, H., Kalenscher, T., & Tobler, P. N. (2017). The dopaminergic reward system underpins gender differences in social preferences. Nature Human Behaviour, 1, 819-827. doi:10.1038/s41562-017-0226-y.

    Abstract

    Women are known to have stronger prosocial preferences than men, but it remains an open question as to how these behavioural differences arise from differences in brain functioning. Here, we provide a neurobiological account for the hypothesized gender difference. In a pharmacological study and an independent neuroimaging study, we tested the hypothesis that the neural reward system encodes the value of sharing money with others more strongly in women than in men. In the pharmacological study, we reduced receptor type-specific actions of dopamine, a neurotransmitter related to reward processing, which resulted in more selfish decisions in women and more prosocial decisions in men. Converging findings from an independent neuroimaging study revealed gender-related activity in neural reward circuits during prosocial decisions. Thus, the neural reward system appears to be more sensitive to prosocial rewards in women than in men, providing a neurobiological account for why women often behave more prosocially than men. A large body of evidence suggests that women are often more prosocial (for example, generous, altruistic and inequality averse) than men, at least when other factors such as reputation and strategic considerations are excluded1,2,3. This dissociation could result from cultural expectations and gender stereotypes, because in Western societies women are more strongly expected to be prosocial4,5,6 and sensitive to variations in social context than men1. It remains an open question, however, whether and how on a neurobiological level the social preferences of women and men arise from differences in brain functioning. The assumption of gender differences in social preferences predicts that the neural reward system’s sensitivity to prosocial and selfish rewards should differ between women and men. Specifically, the hypothesis would be that the neural reward system is more sensitive to prosocial than selfish rewards in women and more sensitive to selfish than prosocial rewards in men. The goal of the current study was to test in two independent experiments for the hypothesized gender differences on both a pharmacological and a haemodynamic level. In particular, we examined the functions of the neurotransmitter dopamine using a dopamine receptor antagonist, and the role of the striatum (a brain region strongly innervated by dopamine neurons) during social decision-making in women and men using neuroimaging. The neurotransmitter dopamine is thought to play a key role in neural reward processing7,8. Recent evidence suggests that dopaminergic activity is sensitive not only to rewards for oneself but to rewards for others as well9. The assumption that dopamine is sensitive to both self- and other-related outcomes is consistent with the finding that the striatum shows activation for both selfish and shared rewards10,11,12,13,14,15. The dopaminergic response may represent a net signal encoding the difference between the value of preferred and unpreferred rewards8. Regarding the hypothesized gender differences in social preferences, this account makes the following predictions. If women prefer shared (prosocial) outcomes2, women’s dopaminergic signals to shared rewards will be stronger than to non-shared (selfish) rewards, so reducing dopaminergic activity should bias women to make more selfish decisions. In line with this hypothesis, a functional imaging study reported enhanced striatal activation in female participants during charitable donations11. In contrast, if men prefer selfish over prosocial rewards, dopaminergic activity should be enhanced to selfish compared to prosocial rewards. In line with this view, upregulating dopaminergic activity in a sample of exclusively male participants increased selfish behaviour in a bargaining game16. Thus, contrary to the hypothesized effect in women, reducing dopaminergic neurotransmission should render men more prosocial. Taken together, the current study tested the following three predictions: we expected the dopaminergic reward system (1) to be more sensitive to prosocial than selfish rewards in women and (2) to be more sensitive to selfish than prosocial rewards in men. As a consequence of these two predictions, we also predicted (3) dopaminoceptive regions such as the striatum to show stronger activation to prosocial relative to selfish rewards in women than in men. To test these predictions, we conducted a pharmacological study in which we reduced dopaminergic neurotransmission with amisulpride. Amisulpride is a dopamine antagonist that is highly specific for dopaminergic D2/D3 receptors17. After receiving amisulpride or placebo, participants performed an interpersonal decision task18,19,20, in which they made choices between a monetary reward only for themselves (selfish reward option) and sharing money with others (prosocial reward option). We expected that blocking dopaminergic neurotransmission with amisulpride, relative to placebo, would result in fewer prosocial choices in women and more prosocial choices in men. To investigate whether potential gender-related effects of dopamine are selective for social decision-making, we also tested the effects of amisulpride on time preferences in a non-social control task that was matched to the interpersonal decision task in terms of choice structure. In addition, because dopaminergic neurotransmission plays a crucial role in brain regions involved in value processing, such as the striatum21, a gender-related role of dopaminergic activity for social decision-making should also be reflected by dissociable activity patterns in the striatum. Therefore, to further test our hypothesis, we investigated the neural correlates of social decision-making in a functional imaging study. In line with our predictions for the pharmacological study, we expected to find stronger striatum activity during prosocial relative to selfish decisions in women, whereas men should show enhanced activity in the striatum for selfish relative to prosocial choices.

    Additional information

    Supplementary Information
  • Ye, Z., Stolk, A., Toni, I., & Hagoort, P. (2017). Oxytocin modulates semantic integration in speech comprehension. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 29, 267-276. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_01044.

    Abstract

    Listeners interpret utterances by integrating information from multiple sources including word level semantics and world knowledge. When the semantics of an expression is inconsistent with his or her knowledge about the world, the listener may have to search through the conceptual space for alternative possible world scenarios that can make the expression more acceptable. Such cognitive exploration requires considerable computational resources and might depend on motivational factors. This study explores whether and how oxytocin, a neuropeptide known to influence socialmotivation by reducing social anxiety and enhancing affiliative tendencies, can modulate the integration of world knowledge and sentence meanings. The study used a betweenparticipant double-blind randomized placebo-controlled design. Semantic integration, indexed with magnetoencephalography through the N400m marker, was quantified while 45 healthymale participants listened to sentences that were either congruent or incongruent with facts of the world, after receiving intranasally delivered oxytocin or placebo. Compared with congruent sentences, world knowledge incongruent sentences elicited a stronger N400m signal from the left inferior frontal and anterior temporal regions and medial pFC (the N400m effect) in the placebo group. Oxytocin administration significantly attenuated the N400meffect at both sensor and cortical source levels throughout the experiment, in a state-like manner. Additional electrophysiological markers suggest that the absence of the N400m effect in the oxytocin group is unlikely due to the lack of early sensory or semantic processing or a general downregulation of attention. These findings suggest that oxytocin drives listeners to resolve challenges of semantic integration, possibly by promoting the cognitive exploration of alternative possible world scenarios.
  • Takashima, A., Bakker, I., Van Hell, J. G., Janzen, G., & McQueen, J. M. (2017). Interaction between episodic and semantic memory networks in the acquisition and consolidation of novel spoken words. Brain and Language, 167, 44-60. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2016.05.009.

    Abstract

    When a novel word is learned, its memory representation is thought to undergo a process of consolidation and integration. In this study, we tested whether the neural representations of novel words change as a function of consolidation by observing brain activation patterns just after learning and again after a delay of one week. Words learned with meanings were remembered better than those learned without meanings. Both episodic (hippocampus-dependent) and semantic (dependent on distributed neocortical areas) memory systems were utilised during recognition of the novel words. The extent to which the two systems were involved changed as a function of time and the amount of associated information, with more involvement of both systems for the meaningful words than for the form-only words after the one-week delay. These results suggest that the reason the meaningful words were remembered better is that their retrieval can benefit more from these two complementary memory systems
  • Tan, Y., Martin, R. C., & Van Dyke, J. A. (2017). Semantic and syntactic interference in sentence comprehension: A comparison of working memory models. Frontiers in Psychology, 8: 198. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00198.

    Abstract

    This study investigated the nature of the underlying working memory system supporting sentence processing through examining individual differences in sensitivity to retrieval interference effects during sentence comprehension. Interference effects occur when readers incorrectly retrieve sentence constituents which are similar to those required during integrative processes. We examined interference arising from a partial match between distracting constituents and syntactic and semantic cues, and related these interference effects to performance on working memory, short-term memory (STM), vocabulary, and executive function tasks. For online sentence comprehension, as measured by self-paced reading, the magnitude of individuals' syntactic interference effects was predicted by general WM capacity and the relation remained significant when partialling out vocabulary, indicating that the effects were not due to verbal knowledge. For offline sentence comprehension, as measured by responses to comprehension questions, both general WM capacity and vocabulary knowledge interacted with semantic interference for comprehension accuracy, suggesting that both general WM capacity and the quality of semantic representations played a role in determining how well interference was resolved offline. For comprehension question reaction times, a measure of semantic STM capacity interacted with semantic but not syntactic interference. However, a measure of phonological capacity (digit span) and a general measure of resistance to response interference (Stroop effect) did not predict individuals' interference resolution abilities in either online or offline sentence comprehension. The results are discussed in relation to the multiple capacities account of working memory (e.g., Martin and Romani, 1994; Martin and He, 2004), and the cue-based retrieval parsing approach (e.g., Lewis et al., 2006; Van Dyke et al., 2014). While neither approach was fully supported, a possible means of reconciling the two approaches and directions for future research are proposed.
  • Tsuji, S., Fikkert, P., Minagawa, Y., Dupoux, E., Filippin, L., Versteegh, M., Hagoort, P., & Cristia, A. (2017). The more, the better? Behavioral and neural correlates of frequent and infrequent vowel exposure. Developmental Psychobiology, 59, 603-612. doi:10.1002/dev.21534.

    Abstract

    A central assumption in the perceptual attunement literature holds that exposure to a speech sound contrast leads to improvement in native speech sound processing. However, whether the amount of exposure matters for this process has not been put to a direct test. We elucidated indicators of frequency-dependent perceptual attunement by comparing 5–8-month-old Dutch infants’ discrimination of tokens containing a highly frequent [hɪt-he:t] and a highly infrequent [hʏt-hø:t] native vowel contrast as well as a non-native [hɛt-hæt] vowel contrast in a behavioral visual habituation paradigm (Experiment 1). Infants discriminated both native contrasts similarly well, but did not discriminate the non-native contrast. We sought further evidence for subtle differences in the processing of the two native contrasts using near-infrared spectroscopy and a within-participant design (Experiment 2). The neuroimaging data did not provide additional evidence that responses to native contrasts are modulated by frequency of exposure. These results suggest that even large differences in exposure to a native contrast may not directly translate to behavioral and neural indicators of perceptual attunement, raising the possibility that frequency of exposure does not influence improvements in discriminating native contrasts.

    Additional information

    dev21534-sup-0001-SuppInfo-S1.docx
  • Udden, J., Snijders, T. M., Fisher, S. E., & Hagoort, P. (2017). A common variant of the CNTNAP2 gene is associated with structural variation in the left superior occipital gyrus. Brain and Language, 172, 16-21. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2016.02.003.

    Abstract

    The CNTNAP2 gene encodes a cell-adhesion molecule that influences the properties of neural networks and the morphology and density of neurons and glial cells. Previous studies have shown association of CNTNAP2 variants with language-related phenotypes in health and disease. Here, we report associations of a common CNTNAP2 polymorphism (rs7794745) with variation in grey matter in a region in the dorsal visual stream. We tried to replicate an earlier study on 314 subjects by Tan and colleagues (2010), but now in a substantially larger group of more than 1700 subjects. Carriers of the T allele showed reduced grey matter volume in left superior occipital gyrus, while we did not replicate associations with grey matter volume in other regions identified by Tan et al (2010). Our work illustrates the importance of independent replication in neuroimaging genetic studies of language-related candidate genes.
  • Udden, J., Ingvar, M., Hagoort, P., & Petersson, K. M. (2017). Broca’s region: A causal role in implicit processing of grammars with crossed non-adjacent dependencies. Cognition, 164, 188-198. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2017.03.010.

    Abstract

    Non-adjacent dependencies are challenging for the language learning machinery and are acquired later than adjacent dependencies. In this transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) study, we show that participants successfully discriminated between grammatical and non-grammatical sequences after having implicitly acquired an artificial language with crossed non-adjacent dependencies. Subsequent to transcranial magnetic stimulation of Broca’s region, discrimination was impaired compared to when a language-irrelevant control region (vertex) was stimulated. These results support the view that Broca’s region is engaged in structured sequence processing and extend previous functional neuroimaging results on artificial grammar learning (AGL) in two directions: first, the results establish that Broca’s region is a causal component in the processing of non-adjacent dependencies, and second, they show that implicit processing of non-adjacent dependencies engages Broca’s region. Since patients with lesions in Broca’s region do not always show grammatical processing difficulties, the result that Broca’s region is causally linked to processing of non-adjacent dependencies is a step towards clarification of the exact nature of syntactic deficits caused by lesions or perturbation to Broca’s region. Our findings are consistent with previous results and support a role for Broca’s region in general structured sequence processing, rather than a specific role for the processing of hierarchically organized sentence structure.
  • Van der Ven, F., Takashima, A., Segers, A., & Verhoeven, L. (2017). Semantic priming in Dutch children: Word meaning integration and study modality effects. Language Learning, 67(3), 546-568. doi:10.1111/lang.12235.
  • Van Bergen, G., & Flecken, M. (2017). Putting things in new places: Linguistic experience modulates the predictive power of placement verb semantics. Journal of Memory and Language, 92, 26-42. doi:10.1016/j.jml.2016.05.003.

    Abstract

    A central question regarding predictive language processing concerns the extent to which linguistic experience modulates the process. We approached this question by investigating sentence processing in advanced second language (L2) users with different native language (L1) backgrounds. Using a visual world eye tracking paradigm, we investigated to what extent L1 and L2 participants showed anticipatory eye movements to objects while listening to Dutch placement event descriptions. L2 groups differed in the degree of similarity between Dutch and their L1 with respect to placement verb semantics: German, like Dutch, specifies object position in placement verbs (put.STAND vs. put.LIE), whereas English and French typically leave position underspecified (put). Results showed that German L2 listeners, like native Dutch listeners, anticipate objects that match the verbally encoded position immediately upon encountering the verb. French/English L2 participants, however, did not show any prediction effects, despite proper understanding of Dutch placement verbs. Our findings suggest that prior experience with a specific semantic contrast in one’s L1 facilitates prediction in L2, and hence adds to the evidence that linguistic experience modulates predictive sentence processing
  • Van Ekert, J., Wegman, J., Jansen, C., Takashima, A., & Janzen, G. (2017). The dynamics of memory consolidation of landmarks. Hippocampus, 27(4), 303-404. doi:10.1002/hipo.22698.

    Abstract

    Navigating through space is fundamental to human nature and requires the ability to retrieve relevant information from the remote past. With the passage of time, some memories become generic, capturing only a sense of familiarity. Yet, others maintain precision, even when acquired decades ago. Understanding the dynamics of memory consolidation is a major challenge to neuroscientists. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we systematically examined the effects of time and spatial context on the neural representation of landmark recognition memory. An equal number of male and female subjects (males N = 10, total N = 20) watched a route through a large-scale virtual environment. Landmarks occurred at navigationally relevant and irrelevant locations along the route. Recognition memory for landmarks was tested directly following encoding, 24 h later and 30 days later. Surprisingly, changes over time in the neural representation of navigationally relevant landmarks differed between males and females. In males, relevant landmarks selectively engaged the parahippocampal gyrus (PHG) regardless of the age of the memory. In females, the response to relevant landmarks gradually diminished with time in the PHG but strengthened progressively in the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG). Based on what is known about the functioning of the PHG and IFG, the findings of this study suggest that males maintain access to the initially formed spatial representation of landmarks whereas females become strongly dependent on a verbal representation of landmarks with time. Our findings yield a clear objective for future studies
  • Vanlangendonck, F. (2017). Finding common ground: On the neural mechanisms of communicative language production. PhD Thesis, Radboud University, Nijmegen.
  • Varma, S., Takashima, A., Krewinkel, S., Van Kooten, M., Fu, L., Medendorp, W. P., Kessels, R. P. C., & Daselaar, S. M. (2017). Non-interfering effects of active post-encoding tasks on episodic memory consolidation in humans. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 11: 54. doi:10.3389/fnbeh.2017.00054.

    Abstract

    So far, studies that investigated interference effects of post-learning processes on episodic memory consolidation in humans have used tasks involving only complex and meaningful information. Such tasks require reallocation of general or encoding-specific resources away from consolidation-relevant activities. The possibility that interference can be elicited using a task that heavily taxes our limited brain resources, but has low semantic and hippocampal related long-term memory processing demands, has never been tested. We address this question by investigating whether consolidation could persist in parallel with an active, encoding-irrelevant, minimally semantic task, regardless of its high resource demands for cognitive processing. We distinguish the impact of such a task on consolidation based on whether it engages resources that are: (1) general/executive, or (2) specific/overlapping with the encoding modality. Our experiments compared subsequent memory performance across two post-encoding consolidation periods: quiet wakeful rest and a cognitively demanding n-Back task. Across six different experiments (total N = 176), we carefully manipulated the design of the n-Back task to target general or specific resources engaged in the ongoing consolidation process. In contrast to previous studies that employed interference tasks involving conceptual stimuli and complex processing demands, we did not find any differences between n-Back and rest conditions on memory performance at delayed test, using both recall and recognition tests. Our results indicate that: (1) quiet, wakeful rest is not a necessary prerequisite for episodic memory consolidation; and (2) post-encoding cognitive engagement does not interfere with memory consolidation when task-performance has minimal semantic and hippocampally-based episodic memory processing demands. We discuss our findings with reference to resource and reactivation-led interference theories
  • Aziz-Zadeh, L., Casasanto, D., Feldman, J., Saxe, R., & Talmy, L. (2008). Discovering the conceptual primitives. In B. C. Love, K. McRae, & V. M. Sloutsky (Eds.), Proceedings of the 30th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 27-28). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.
  • Baggio, G., Van Lambalgen, M., & Hagoort, P. (2008). Computing and recomputing discourse models: An ERP study. Journal of Memory and Language, 59, 36-53. doi:10.1016/j.jml.2008.02.005.

    Abstract

    While syntactic reanalysis has been extensively investigated in psycholinguistics, comparatively little is known about reanalysis in the semantic domain. We used event-related brain potentials (ERPs) to keep track of semantic processes involved in understanding short narratives such as ‘The girl was writing a letter when her friend spilled coffee on the paper’. We hypothesize that these sentences are interpreted in two steps: (1) when the progressive clause is processed, a discourse model is computed in which the goal state (a complete letter) is predicted to hold; (2) when the subordinate clause is processed, the initial representation is recomputed to the effect that, in the final discourse structure, the goal state is not satisfied. Critical sentences evoked larger sustained anterior negativities (SANs) compared to controls, starting around 400 ms following the onset of the sentence-final word, and lasting for about 400 ms. The amplitude of the SAN was correlated with the frequency with which participants, in an offline probe-selection task, responded that the goal state was not attained. Our results raise the possibility that the brain supports some form of non-monotonic recomputation to integrate information which invalidates previously held assumptions.
  • Bastiaansen, M. C. M., Oostenveld, R., Jensen, O., & Hagoort, P. (2008). I see what you mean: Theta power increases are involved in the retrieval of lexical semantic information. Brain and Language, 106(1), 15-28. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2007.10.006.

    Abstract

    An influential hypothesis regarding the neural basis of the mental lexicon is that semantic representations are neurally implemented as distributed networks carrying sensory, motor and/or more abstract functional information. This work investigates whether the semantic properties of words partly determine the topography of such networks. Subjects performed a visual lexical decision task while their EEG was recorded. We compared the EEG responses to nouns with either visual semantic properties (VIS, referring to colors and shapes) or with auditory semantic properties (AUD, referring to sounds). A time–frequency analysis of the EEG revealed power increases in the theta (4–7 Hz) and lower-beta (13–18 Hz) frequency bands, and an early power increase and subsequent decrease for the alpha (8–12 Hz) band. In the theta band we observed a double dissociation: temporal electrodes showed larger theta power increases in the AUD condition, while occipital leads showed larger theta responses in the VIS condition. The results support the notion that semantic representations are stored in functional networks with a topography that reflects the semantic properties of the stored items, and provide further evidence that oscillatory brain dynamics in the theta frequency range are functionally related to the retrieval of lexical semantic information.
  • De Bree, E., Van Alphen, P. M., Fikkert, P., & Wijnen, F. (2008). Metrical stress in comprehension and production of Dutch children at risk of dyslexia. In H. Chan, H. Jacob, & E. Kapia (Eds.), Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development (pp. 60-71). Somerville, Mass: Cascadilla Press.

    Abstract

    The present study compared the role of metrical stress in comprehension and production of three-year-old children with a familial risk of dyslexia with that of normally developing children to further explore the phonological deficit in dyslexia. A visual fixation task with stress (mis-)matches in bisyllabic words, as well as a non-word repetition task with bisyllabic targets were presented to the control and at-risk children. Results show that the at-risk group was less sensitive to stress mismatches in word recognition than the control group. Correct production of metrical stress patterns did not differ significantly between the groups, but the percentages of phonemes produced correctly were lower for the at-risk than the control group. These findings suggest that processing of metrical stress is not impaired in at-risk children, but that this group cannot exploit metrical stress for speech in word recognition. This study demonstrates the importance of including suprasegmental skills in dyslexia research.
  • Casasanto, D. (2008). Similarity and proximity: When does close in space mean close in mind? Memory & Cognition, 36(6), 1047-1056. doi:10.3758/MC.36.6.1047.

    Abstract

    People often describe things that are similar as close and things that are dissimilar as far apart. Does the way people talk about similarity reveal something fundamental about the way they conceptualize it? Three experiments tested the relationship between similarity and spatial proximity that is encoded in metaphors in language. Similarity ratings for pairs of words or pictures varied as a function of how far apart the stimuli appeared on the computer screen, but the influence of distance on similarity differed depending on the type of judgments the participants made. Stimuli presented closer together were rated more similar during conceptual judgments of abstract entities or unseen object properties but were rated less similar during perceptual judgments of visual appearance. These contrasting results underscore the importance of testing predictions based on linguistic metaphors experimentally and suggest that our sense of similarity arises from our ability to combine available perceptual information with stored knowledge of experiential regularities.
  • Casasanto, D. (2008). Who's afraid of the big bad Whorf? Crosslinguistic differences in temporal language and thought. In P. Indefrey, & M. Gullberg (Eds.), Time to speak: Cognitive and neural prerequisites for time in language (pp. 63-79). Oxford: Wiley.

    Abstract

    The idea that language shapes the way we think, often associated with Benjamin Whorf, has long been decried as not only wrong but also fundamentally wrong-headed. Yet, experimental evidence has reopened debate about the extent to which language influences nonlinguistic cognition, particularly in the domain of time. In this article, I will first analyze an influential argument against the Whorfian hypothesis and show that its anti-Whorfian conclusion is in part an artifact of conflating two distinct questions: Do we think in language? and Does language shape thought? Next, I will discuss crosslinguistic differences in spatial metaphors for time and describe experiments that demonstrate corresponding differences in nonlinguistic mental representations. Finally, I will sketch a simple learning mechanism by which some linguistic relativity effects appear to arise. Although people may not think in language, speakers of different languages develop distinctive conceptual repertoires as a consequence of ordinary and presumably universal neural and cognitive processes.
  • Casasanto, D. (2008). Who's afraid of the big bad Whorf? Crosslinguistic differences in temporal language and thought. Language Learning, 58(suppl. 1), 63-79. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9922.2008.00462.x.

    Abstract

    The idea that language shapes the way we think, often associated with Benjamin Whorf, has long been decried as not only wrong but also fundamentally wrong-headed. Yet, experimental evidence has reopened debate about the extent to which language influences nonlinguistic cognition, particularly in the domain of time. In this article, I will first analyze an influential argument against the Whorfian hypothesis and show that its anti-Whorfian conclusion is in part an artifact of conflating two distinct questions: Do we think in language? and Does language shape thought? Next, I will discuss crosslinguistic differences in spatial metaphors for time and describe experiments that demonstrate corresponding differences in nonlinguistic mental representations. Finally, I will sketch a simple learning mechanism by which some linguistic relativity effects appear to arise. Although people may not think in language, speakers of different languages develop distinctive conceptual repertoires as a consequence of ordinary and presumably universal neural and cognitive processes.
  • Casasanto, D., & Boroditsky, L. (2008). Time in the mind: Using space to think about time. Cognition, 106, 579-573. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2007.03.004.

    Abstract

    How do we construct abstract ideas like justice, mathematics, or time-travel? In this paper we investigate whether mental representations that result from physical experience underlie people’s more abstract mental representations, using the domains of space and time as a testbed. People often talk about time using spatial language (e.g., a long vacation, a short concert). Do people also think about time using spatial representations, even when they are not using language? Results of six psychophysical experiments revealed that people are unable to ignore irrelevant spatial information when making judgments about duration, but not the converse. This pattern, which is predicted by the asymmetry between space and time in linguistic metaphors, was demonstrated here in tasks that do not involve any linguistic stimuli or responses. These findings provide evidence that the metaphorical relationship between space and time observed in language also exists in our more basic representations of distance and duration. Results suggest that our mental representations of things we can never see or touch may be built, in part, out of representations of physical experiences in perception and motor action.
  • Dijkstra, K., & Casasanto, D. (2008). Autobiographical memory and motor action [Abstract]. In B. C. Love, K. McRae, & V. M. Sloutsky (Eds.), Proceedings of the 30th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 1549). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.

    Abstract

    Retrieval of autobiographical memories is facilitated by activation of perceptuo-motor aspects of the experience, for example a congruent body position at the time of the experiencing and the time of retelling (Dijkstra, Kaschak, & Zwaan, 2007). The present study examined whether similar retrieval facilitation occurs when the direction of motor action is congruent with the valence of emotional memories. Consistent with evidence that people mentally represent emotions spatially (Casasanto, in press), participants moved marbles between vertically stacked boxes at a higher rate when the direction of movement was congruent with the valence of the memory they retrieved (e.g., upward for positive memories, downward for negative memories) than when direction and valence were incongruent (t(22)=4.24, p<.001). In addition, valence-congruent movements facilitated access to these memories, resulting in shorter retrieval times (t(22)=2.43, p<.05). Results demonstrate bidirectional influences between the emotional content of autobiographical memories and irrelevant motor actions.
  • Folia, V., Uddén, J., Forkstam, C., Ingvar, M., Hagoort, P., & Petersson, K. M. (2008). Implicit learning and dyslexia. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1145, 132-150. doi:10.1196/annals.1416.012.

    Abstract

    Several studies have reported an association between dyslexia and implicit learning deficits. It has been suggested that the weakness in implicit learning observed in dyslexic individuals may be related to sequential processing and implicit sequence learning. In the present article, we review the current literature on implicit learning and dyslexia. We describe a novel, forced-choice structural "mere exposure" artificial grammar learning paradigm and characterize this paradigm in normal readers in relation to the standard grammaticality classification paradigm. We argue that preference classification is a more optimal measure of the outcome of implicit acquisition since in the preference version participants are kept completely unaware of the underlying generative mechanism, while in the grammaticality version, the subjects have, at least in principle, been informed about the existence of an underlying complex set of rules at the point of classification (but not during acquisition). On the basis of the "mere exposure effect," we tested the prediction that the development of preference will correlate with the grammaticality status of the classification items. In addition, we examined the effects of grammaticality (grammatical/nongrammatical) and associative chunk strength (ACS; high/low) on the classification tasks (preference/grammaticality). Using a balanced ACS design in which the factors of grammaticality (grammatical/nongrammatical) and ACS (high/low) were independently controlled in a 2 × 2 factorial design, we confirmed our predictions. We discuss the suitability of this task for further investigation of the implicit learning characteristics in dyslexia.
  • Forkstam, C., Elwér, A., Ingvar, M., & Petersson, K. M. (2008). Instruction effects in implicit artificial grammar learning: A preference for grammaticality. Brain Research, 1221, 80-92. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2008.05.005.

    Abstract

    Human implicit learning can be investigated with implicit artificial grammar learning, a paradigm that has been proposed as a simple model for aspects of natural language acquisition. In the present study we compared the typical yes–no grammaticality classification, with yes–no preference classification. In the case of preference instruction no reference to the underlying generative mechanism (i.e., grammar) is needed and the subjects are therefore completely uninformed about an underlying structure in the acquisition material. In experiment 1, subjects engaged in a short-term memory task using only grammatical strings without performance feedback for 5 days. As a result of the 5 acquisition days, classification performance was independent of instruction type and both the preference and the grammaticality group acquired relevant knowledge of the underlying generative mechanism to a similar degree. Changing the grammatical stings to random strings in the acquisition material (experiment 2) resulted in classification being driven by local substring familiarity. Contrasting repeated vs. non-repeated preference classification (experiment 3) showed that the effect of local substring familiarity decreases with repeated classification. This was not the case for repeated grammaticality classifications. We conclude that classification performance is largely independent of instruction type and that forced-choice preference classification is equivalent to the typical grammaticality classification.
  • Goldin-Meadow, S., Chee So, W., Ozyurek, A., & Mylander, C. (2008). The natural order of events: how speakers of different languages represent events nonverbally. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 105(27), 9163-9168. doi:10.1073/pnas.0710060105.

    Abstract

    To test whether the language we speak influences our behavior even when we are not speaking, we asked speakers of four languages differing in their predominant word orders (English, Turkish, Spanish, and Chinese) to perform two nonverbal tasks: a communicative task (describing an event by using gesture without speech) and a noncommunicative task (reconstructing an event with pictures). We found that the word orders speakers used in their everyday speech did not influence their nonverbal behavior. Surprisingly, speakers of all four languages used the same order and on both nonverbal tasks. This order, actor–patient–act, is analogous to the subject–object–verb pattern found in many languages of the world and, importantly, in newly developing gestural languages. The findings provide evidence for a natural order that we impose on events when describing and reconstructing them nonverbally and exploit when constructing language anew.

    Additional information

    GoldinMeadow_2008_naturalSuppl.pdf
  • Hagoort, P., Ramsey, N. F., & Jensen, O. (2008). De gereedschapskist van de cognitieve neurowetenschap. In F. Wijnen, & F. Verstraten (Eds.), Het brein te kijk: Verkenning van de cognitieve neurowetenschap (pp. 41-75). Amsterdam: Harcourt Assessment.
  • Li, X., Hagoort, P., & Yang, Y. (2008). Event-related potential evidence on the influence of accentuation in spoken discourse comprehension in Chinese. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 20(5), 906-915. doi:10.1162/jocn.2008.20512.

    Abstract

    In an event-related potential experiment with Chinese discourses as material, we investigated how and when accentuation influences spoken discourse comprehension in relation to the different information states of the critical words. These words could either provide new or old information. It was shown that variation of accentuation influenced the amplitude of the N400, with a larger amplitude for accented than deaccented words. In addition, there was an interaction between accentuation and information state. The N400 amplitude difference between accented and deaccented new information was smaller than that between accented and deaccented old information. The results demonstrate that, during spoken discourse comprehension, listeners rapidly extract the semantic consequences of accentuation in relation to the previous discourse context. Moreover, our results show that the N400 amplitude can be larger for correct (new,accented words) than incorrect (new, deaccented words) information. This, we argue, proves that the N400 does not react to semantic anomaly per se, but rather to semantic integration load, which is higher for new information.
  • Hagoort, P. (2008). Mijn omweg naar de filosofie. Algemeen Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Wijsbegeerte, 100(4), 303-310.
  • Hagoort, P. (2008). Should psychology ignore the language of the brain? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17(2), 96-101. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8721.2008.00556.x.

    Abstract

    Claims that neuroscientific data do not contribute to our understanding of psychological functions have been made recently. Here I argue that these criticisms are solely based on an analysis of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies. However, fMRI is only one of the methods in the toolkit of cognitive neuroscience. I provide examples from research on event-related brain potentials (ERPs) that have contributed to our understanding of the cognitive architecture of human language functions. In addition, I provide evidence of (possible) contributions from fMRI measurements to our understanding of the functional architecture of language processing. Finally, I argue that a neurobiology of human language that integrates information about the necessary genetic and neural infrastructures will allow us to answer certain questions that are not answerable if all we have is evidence from behavior.
  • Hagoort, P. (2008). The fractionation of spoken language understanding by measuring electrical and magnetic brain signals. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, 363, 1055-1069. doi:10.1098/rstb.2007.2159.

    Abstract

    This paper focuses on what electrical and magnetic recordings of human brain activity reveal about spoken language understanding. Based on the high temporal resolution of these recordings, a fine-grained temporal profile of different aspects of spoken language comprehension can be obtained. Crucial aspects of speech comprehension are lexical access, selection and semantic integration. Results show that for words spoken in context, there is no ‘magic moment’ when lexical selection ends and semantic integration begins. Irrespective of whether words have early or late recognition points, semantic integration processing is initiated before words can be identified on the basis of the acoustic information alone. Moreover, for one particular event-related brain potential (ERP) component (the N400), equivalent impact of sentence- and discourse-semantic contexts is observed. This indicates that in comprehension, a spoken word is immediately evaluated relative to the widest interpretive domain available. In addition, this happens very quickly. Findings are discussed that show that often an unfolding word can be mapped onto discourse-level representations well before the end of the word. Overall, the time course of the ERP effects is compatible with the view that the different information types (lexical, syntactic, phonological, pragmatic) are processed in parallel and influence the interpretation process incrementally, that is as soon as the relevant pieces of information are available. This is referred to as the immediacy principle.
  • Hagoort, P. (2008). Über Broca, Gehirn und Bindung. In Jahrbuch 2008: Tätigkeitsberichte der Institute. München: Generalverwaltung der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. Retrieved from http://www.mpg.de/306524/forschungsSchwerpunkt1?c=166434.

    Abstract

    Beim Sprechen und beim Sprachverstehen findet man die Wortbedeutung im Gedächtnis auf und kombiniert sie zu größeren Einheiten (Unifikation). Solche Unifikations-Operationen laufen auf unterschiedlichen Ebenen der Sprachverarbeitung ab. In diesem Beitrag wird ein Rahmen vorgeschlagen, in dem psycholinguistische Modelle mit neurobiologischer Sprachbetrachtung in Verbindung gebracht werden. Diesem Vorschlag zufolge spielt der linke inferiore frontale Gyrus (LIFG) eine bedeutende Rolle bei der Unifi kation
  • Janzen, G., Jansen, C., & Van Turennout, M. (2008). Memory consolidation of landmarks in good navigators. Hippocampus, 18, 40-47.

    Abstract

    Landmarks play an important role in successful navigation. To successfully find your way around an environment, navigationally relevant information needs to be stored and become available at later moments in time. Evidence from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies shows that the human parahippocampal gyrus encodes the navigational relevance of landmarks. In the present event-related fMRI experiment, we investigated memory consolidation of navigationally relevant landmarks in the medial temporal lobe after route learning. Sixteen right-handed volunteers viewed two film sequences through a virtual museum with objects placed at locations relevant (decision points) or irrelevant (nondecision points) for navigation. To investigate consolidation effects, one film sequence was seen in the evening before scanning, the other one was seen the following morning, directly before scanning. Event-related fMRI data were acquired during an object recognition task. Participants decided whether they had seen the objects in the previously shown films. After scanning, participants answered standardized questions about their navigational skills, and were divided into groups of good and bad navigators, based on their scores. An effect of memory consolidation was obtained in the hippocampus: Objects that were seen the evening before scanning (remote objects) elicited more activity than objects seen directly before scanning (recent objects). This increase in activity in bilateral hippocampus for remote objects was observed in good navigators only. In addition, a spatial-specific effect of memory consolidation for navigationally relevant objects was observed in the parahippocampal gyrus. Remote decision point objects induced increased activity as compared with recent decision point objects, again in good navigators only. The results provide initial evidence for a connection between memory consolidation and navigational ability that can provide a basis for successful navigation.
  • Kho, K. H., Indefrey, P., Hagoort, P., Van Veelen, C. W. M., Van Rijen, P. C., & Ramsey, N. F. (2008). Unimpaired sentence comprehension after anterior temporal cortex resection. Neuropsychologia, 46(4), 1170-1178. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2007.10.014.

    Abstract

    Functional imaging studies have demonstrated involvement of the anterior temporal cortex in sentence comprehension. It is unclear, however, whether the anterior temporal cortex is essential for this function.We studied two aspects of sentence comprehension, namely syntactic and prosodic comprehension in temporal lobe epilepsy patients who were candidates for resection of the anterior temporal lobe. Methods: Temporal lobe epilepsy patients (n = 32) with normal (left) language dominance were tested on syntactic and prosodic comprehension before and after removal of the anterior temporal cortex. The prosodic comprehension test was also compared with performance of healthy control subjects (n = 47) before surgery. Results: Overall, temporal lobe epilepsy patients did not differ from healthy controls in syntactic and prosodic comprehension before surgery. They did perform less well on an affective prosody task. Post-operative testing revealed that syntactic and prosodic comprehension did not change after removal of the anterior temporal cortex. Discussion: The unchanged performance on syntactic and prosodic comprehension after removal of the anterior temporal cortex suggests that this area is not indispensable for sentence comprehension functions in temporal epilepsy patients. Potential implications for the postulated role of the anterior temporal lobe in the healthy brain are discussed.
  • Ladd, D. R., Dediu, D., & Kinsella, A. R. (2008). Reply to Bowles (2008). Biolinguistics, 2(2), 256-259.
  • De Lange, F. P., Koers, A., Kalkman, J. S., Bleijenberg, G., Hagoort, P., Van der Meer, J. W. M., & Toni, I. (2008). Increase in prefrontal cortical volume following cognitive behavioural therapy in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. Brain, 131, 2172-2180. doi:10.1093/brain/awn140.

    Abstract

    Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a disabling disorder, characterized by persistent or relapsing fatigue. Recent studies have detected a decrease in cortical grey matter volume in patients with CFS, but it is unclear whether this cerebral atrophy constitutes a cause or a consequence of the disease. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is an effective behavioural intervention for CFS, which combines a rehabilitative approach of a graded increase in physical activity with a psychological approach that addresses thoughts and beliefs about CFS which may impair recovery. Here, we test the hypothesis that cerebral atrophy may be a reversible state that can ameliorate with successful CBT. We have quantified cerebral structural changes in 22 CFS patients that underwent CBT and 22 healthy control participants. At baseline, CFS patients had significantly lower grey matter volume than healthy control participants. CBT intervention led to a significant improvement in health status, physical activity and cognitive performance. Crucially, CFS patients showed a significant increase in grey matter volume, localized in the lateral prefrontal cortex. This change in cerebral volume was related to improvements in cognitive speed in the CFS patients. Our findings indicate that the cerebral atrophy associated with CFS is partially reversed after effective CBT. This result provides an example of macroscopic cortical plasticity in the adult human brain, demonstrating a surprisingly dynamic relation between behavioural state and cerebral anatomy. Furthermore, our results reveal a possible neurobiological substrate of psychotherapeutic treatment.
  • Nieuwland, M. S., & Van Berkum, J. J. A. (2008). The interplay between semantic and referential aspects of anaphoric noun phrase resolution: Evidence from ERPs. Brain & Language, 106, 119-131. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2008.05.001.

    Abstract

    In this event-related brain potential (ERP) study, we examined how semantic and referential aspects of anaphoric noun phrase resolution interact during discourse comprehension. We used a full factorial design that crossed referential ambiguity with semantic incoherence. Ambiguous anaphors elicited a sustained negative shift (Nref effect), and incoherent anaphors elicited an N400 effect. Simultaneously ambiguous and incoherent anaphors elicited an ERP pattern resembling that of the incoherent anaphors. These results suggest that semantic incoherence can preclude readers from engaging in anaphoric inferencing. Furthermore, approximately half of our participants unexpectedly showed common late positive effects to the three types of problematic anaphors. We relate the latter finding to recent accounts of what the P600 might reflect, and to the role of individual differences therein.
  • Nieuwland, M. S., & Van Berkum, J. J. A. (2008). The neurocognition of referential ambiguity in language comprehension. Language and Linguistics Compass, 2(4), 603-630. doi:10.1111/j.1749-818x.2008.00070.x.

    Abstract

    Referential ambiguity arises whenever readers or listeners are unable to select a unique referent for a linguistic expression out of multiple candidates. In the current article, we review a series of neurocognitive experiments from our laboratory that examine the neural correlates of referential ambiguity, and that employ the brain signature of referential ambiguity to derive functional properties of the language comprehension system. The results of our experiments converge to show that referential ambiguity resolution involves making an inference to evaluate the referential candidates. These inferences only take place when both referential candidates are, at least initially, equally plausible antecedents. Whether comprehenders make these anaphoric inferences is strongly context dependent and co-determined by characteristics of the reader. In addition, readers appear to disregard referential ambiguity when the competing candidates are each semantically incoherent, suggesting that, under certain circumstances, semantic analysis can proceed even when referential analysis has not yielded a unique antecedent. Finally, results from a functional neuroimaging study suggest that whereas the neural systems that deal with referential ambiguity partially overlap with those that deal with referential failure, they show an inverse coupling with the neural systems associated with semantic processing, possibly reflecting the relative contributions of semantic and episodic processing to re-establish semantic and referential coherence, respectively.
  • Otten, M., & Van Berkum, J. J. A. (2008). Discourse-based word anticipation during language processing: Prediction of priming? Discourse Processes, 45, 464-496. doi:10.1080/01638530802356463.

    Abstract

    Language is an intrinsically open-ended system. This fact has led to the widely shared assumption that readers and listeners do not predict upcoming words, at least not in a way that goes beyond simple priming between words. Recent evidence, however, suggests that readers and listeners do anticipate upcoming words “on the fly” as a text unfolds. In 2 event-related potentials experiments, this study examined whether these predictions are based on the exact message conveyed by the prior discourse or on simpler word-based priming mechanisms. Participants read texts that strongly supported the prediction of a specific word, mixed with non-predictive control texts that contained the same prime words. In Experiment 1A, anomalous words that replaced a highly predictable (as opposed to a non-predictable but coherent) word elicited a long-lasting positive shift, suggesting that the prior discourse had indeed led people to predict specific words. In Experiment 1B, adjectives whose suffix mismatched the predictable noun's syntactic gender elicited a short-lived late negativity in predictive stories but not in prime control stories. Taken together, these findings reveal that the conceptual basis for predicting specific upcoming words during reading is the exact message conveyed by the discourse and not the mere presence of prime words.
  • Ozyurek, A., Kita, S., Allen, S., Brown, A., Furman, R., & Ishizuka, T. (2008). Development of cross-linguistic variation in speech and gesture: motion events in English and Turkish. Developmental Psychology, 44(4), 1040-1054. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.44.4.1040.

    Abstract

    The way adults express manner and path components of a motion event varies across typologically different languages both in speech and cospeech gestures, showing that language specificity in event encoding influences gesture. The authors tracked when and how this multimodal cross-linguistic variation develops in children learning Turkish and English, 2 typologically distinct languages. They found that children learn to speak in language-specific ways from age 3 onward (i.e., English speakers used 1 clause and Turkish speakers used 2 clauses to express manner and path). In contrast, English- and Turkish-speaking children’s gestures looked similar at ages 3 and 5 (i.e., separate gestures for manner and path), differing from each other only at age 9 and in adulthood (i.e., English speakers used 1 gesture, but Turkish speakers used separate gestures for manner and path). The authors argue that this pattern of the development of cospeech gestures reflects a gradual shift to language-specific representations during speaking and shows that looking at speech alone may not be sufficient to understand the full process of language acquisition.
  • Patel, A. D., Iversen, J. R., Wassenaar, M., & Hagoort, P. (2008). Musical syntactic processing in agrammatic Broca's aphasia. Aphasiology, 22(7/8), 776-789. doi:10.1080/02687030701803804.

    Abstract

    Background: Growing evidence for overlap in the syntactic processing of language and music in non-brain-damaged individuals leads to the question of whether aphasic individuals with grammatical comprehension problems in language also have problems processing structural relations in music. Aims: The current study sought to test musical syntactic processing in individuals with Broca's aphasia and grammatical comprehension deficits, using both explicit and implicit tasks. Methods & Procedures: Two experiments were conducted. In the first experiment 12 individuals with Broca's aphasia (and 14 matched controls) were tested for their sensitivity to grammatical and semantic relations in sentences, and for their sensitivity to musical syntactic (harmonic) relations in chord sequences. An explicit task (acceptability judgement of novel sequences) was used. The second experiment, with 9 individuals with Broca's aphasia (and 12 matched controls), probed musical syntactic processing using an implicit task (harmonic priming). Outcomes & Results: In both experiments the aphasic group showed impaired processing of musical syntactic relations. Control experiments indicated that this could not be attributed to low-level problems with the perception of pitch patterns or with auditory short-term memory for tones. Conclusions: The results suggest that musical syntactic processing in agrammatic aphasia deserves systematic investigation, and that such studies could help probe the nature of the processing deficits underlying linguistic agrammatism. Methodological suggestions are offered for future work in this little-explored area.
  • Perniss, P. M., & Ozyurek, A. (2008). Representations of action, motion and location in sign space: A comparison of German (DGS) and Turkish (TID) sign language narratives. In J. Quer (Ed.), Signs of the time: Selected papers from TISLR 8 (pp. 353-376). Seedorf: Signum Press.
  • Petersson, K. M. (2008). On cognition, structured sequence processing, and adaptive dynamical systems. American Institute of Physics Conference Proceedings, 1060(1), 195-200.

    Abstract

    Cognitive neuroscience approaches the brain as a cognitive system: a system that functionally is conceptualized in terms of information processing. We outline some aspects of this concept and consider a physical system to be an information processing device when a subclass of its physical states can be viewed as representational/cognitive and transitions between these can be conceptualized as a process operating on these states by implementing operations on the corresponding representational structures. We identify a generic and fundamental problem in cognition: sequentially organized structured processing. Structured sequence processing provides the brain, in an essential sense, with its processing logic. In an approach addressing this problem, we illustrate how to integrate levels of analysis within a framework of adaptive dynamical systems. We note that the dynamical system framework lends itself to a description of asynchronous event-driven devices, which is likely to be important in cognition because the brain appears to be an asynchronous processing system. We use the human language faculty and natural language processing as a concrete example through out.
  • Scheeringa, R., Bastiaansen, M. C. M., Petersson, K. M., Oostenveld, R., Norris, D. G., & Hagoort, P. (2008). Frontal theta EEG activity correlates negatively with the default mode network in resting state. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 67, 242-251. doi:10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2007.05.017.

    Abstract

    We used simultaneously recorded EEG and fMRI to investigate in which areas the BOLD signal correlates with frontal theta power changes, while subjects were quietly lying resting in the scanner with their eyes open. To obtain a reliable estimate of frontal theta power we applied ICA on band-pass filtered (2–9 Hz) EEG data. For each subject we selected the component that best matched the mid-frontal scalp topography associated with the frontal theta rhythm. We applied a time-frequency analysis on this component and used the time course of the frequency bin with the highest overall power to form a regressor that modeled spontaneous fluctuations in frontal theta power. No significant positive BOLD correlations with this regressor were observed. Extensive negative correlations were observed in the areas that together form the default mode network. We conclude that frontal theta activity can be seen as an EEG index of default mode network activity.
  • Senghas, A., Kita, S., & Ozyurek, A. (2008). Children creating core properties of language: Evidence from an emerging sign language in Nicaragua. In K. A. Lindgren, D. DeLuca, & D. J. Napoli (Eds.), Signs and Voices: Deaf Culture, Identity, Language, and Arts. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.
  • Toni, I., De Lange, F. P., Noordzij, M. L., & Hagoort, P. (2008). Language beyond action. Journal of Physiology, 102, 71-79. doi:10.1016/j.jphysparis.2008.03.005.

    Abstract

    The discovery of mirror neurons in macaques and of a similar system in humans has provided a new and fertile neurobiological ground for rooting a variety of cognitive faculties. Automatic sensorimotor resonance has been invoked as the key elementary process accounting for disparate (dys)functions, like imitation, ideomotor apraxia, autism, and schizophrenia. In this paper, we provide a critical appraisal of three of these claims that deal with the relationship between language and the motor system. Does language comprehension require the motor system? Was there an evolutionary switch from manual gestures to speech as the primary mode of language? Is human communication explained by automatic sensorimotor resonances? A positive answer to these questions would open the tantalizing possibility of bringing language and human communication within the fold of the motor system. We argue that the available empirical evidence does not appear to support these claims, and their theoretical scope fails to account for some crucial features of the phenomena they are supposed to explain. Without denying the enormous importance of the discovery of mirror neurons, we highlight the limits of their explanatory power for understanding language and communication.
  • Uddén, J., Folia, V., Forkstam, C., Ingvar, M., Fernández, G., Overeem, S., Van Elswijk, G., Hagoort, P., & Petersson, K. M. (2008). The inferior frontal cortex in artificial syntax processing: An rTMS study. Brain Research, 1224, 69-78. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2008.05.070.

    Abstract

    The human capacity to implicitly acquire knowledge of structured sequences has recently been investigated in artificial grammar learning using functional magnetic resonance imaging. It was found that the left inferior frontal cortex (IFC; Brodmann's area (BA) 44/45) was related to classification performance. The objective of this study was to investigate whether the IFC (BA 44/45) is causally related to classification of artificial syntactic structures by means of an off-line repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) paradigm. We manipulated the stimulus material in a 2 × 2 factorial design with grammaticality status and local substring familiarity as factors. The participants showed a reliable effect of grammaticality on classification of novel items after 5days of exposure to grammatical exemplars without performance feedback in an implicit acquisition task. The results show that rTMS of BA 44/45 improves syntactic classification performance by increasing the rejection rate of non-grammatical items and by shortening reaction times of correct rejections specifically after left-sided stimulation. A similar pattern of results is observed in FMRI experiments on artificial syntactic classification. These results suggest that activity in the inferior frontal region is causally related to artificial syntax processing.
  • Van Heuven, W. J. B., Schriefers, H., Dijkstra, T., & Hagoort, P. (2008). Language conflict in the bilingual brain. Cerebral Cortex, 18(11), 2706-2716. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhn030.

    Abstract

    The large majority of humankind is more or less fluent in 2 or even more languages. This raises the fundamental question how the language network in the brain is organized such that the correct target language is selected at a particular occasion. Here we present behavioral and functional magnetic resonance imaging data showing that bilingual processing leads to language conflict in the bilingual brain even when the bilinguals’ task only required target language knowledge. This finding demonstrates that the bilingual brain cannot avoid language conflict, because words from the target and nontarget languages become automatically activated during reading. Importantly, stimulus-based language conflict was found in brain regions in the LIPC associated with phonological and semantic processing, whereas response-based language conflict was only found in the pre-supplementary motor area/anterior cingulate cortex when language conflict leads to response conflicts.
  • Van Berkum, J. J. A., Van den Brink, D., Tesink, C. M. J. Y., Kos, M., & Hagoort, P. (2008). The neural integration of speaker and message. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 20(4), 580-591. doi:10.1162/jocn.2008.20054.

    Abstract

    When do listeners take into account who the speaker is? We asked people to listen to utterances whose content sometimes did not match inferences based on the identity of the speaker (e.g., “If only I looked like Britney Spears” in a male voice, or “I have a large tattoo on my back” spoken with an upper-class accent). Event-related brain responses revealed that the speaker's identity is taken into account as early as 200–300 msec after the beginning of a spoken word, and is processed by the same early interpretation mechanism that constructs sentence meaning based on just the words. This finding is difficult to reconcile with standard “Gricean” models of sentence interpretation in which comprehenders initially compute a local, context-independent meaning for the sentence (“semantics”) before working out what it really means given the wider communicative context and the particular speaker (“pragmatics”). Because the observed brain response hinges on voice-based and usually stereotype-dependent inferences about the speaker, it also shows that listeners rapidly classify speakers on the basis of their voices and bring the associated social stereotypes to bear on what is being said. According to our event-related potential results, language comprehension takes very rapid account of the social context, and the construction of meaning based on language alone cannot be separated from the social aspects of language use. The linguistic brain relates the message to the speaker immediately.
  • Van Berkum, J. J. A. (2008). Understanding sentences in context: What brain waves can tell us. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17(6), 376-380. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8721.2008.00609.x.

    Abstract

    Language comprehension looks pretty easy. You pick up a novel and simply enjoy the plot, or ponder the human condition. You strike a conversation and listen to whatever the other person has to say. Although what you're taking in is a bunch of letters and sounds, what you really perceive—if all goes well—is meaning. But how do you get from one to the other so easily? The experiments with brain waves (event-related brain potentials or ERPs) reviewed here show that the linguistic brain rapidly draws upon a wide variety of information sources, including prior text and inferences about the speaker. Furthermore, people anticipate what might be said about whom, they use heuristics to arrive at the earliest possible interpretation, and if it makes sense, they sometimes even ignore the grammar. Language comprehension is opportunistic, proactive, and, above all, immediately context-dependent.
  • 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.

    Abstract

    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
  • Willems, R. M., Ozyurek, A., & Hagoort, P. (2008). Seeing and hearing meaning: ERP and fMRI evidence of word versus picture integration into a sentence context. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 20, 1235-1249. doi:10.1162/jocn.2008.20085.

    Abstract

    Understanding language always occurs within a situational context and, therefore, often implies combining streams of information from different domains and modalities. One such combination is that of spoken language and visual information, which are perceived together in a variety of ways during everyday communication. Here we investigate whether and how words and pictures differ in terms of their neural correlates when they are integrated into a previously built-up sentence context. This is assessed in two experiments looking at the time course (measuring event-related potentials, ERPs) and the locus (using functional magnetic resonance imaging, fMRI) of this integration process. We manipulated the ease of semantic integration of word and/or picture to a previous sentence context to increase the semantic load of processing. In the ERP study, an increased semantic load led to an N400 effect which was similar for pictures and words in terms of latency and amplitude. In the fMRI study, we found overlapping activations to both picture and word integration in the left inferior frontal cortex. Specific activations for the integration of a word were observed in the left superior temporal cortex. We conclude that despite obvious differences in representational format, semantic information coming from pictures and words is integrated into a sentence context in similar ways in the brain. This study adds to the growing insight that the language system incorporates (semantic) information coming from linguistic and extralinguistic domains with the same neural time course and by recruitment of overlapping brain areas.
  • Li, X., Yang, Y., & Hagoort, P. (2008). Pitch accent and lexical tone processing in Chinese discourse comprehension: An ERP study. Brain Research, 1222, 192-200. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2008.05.031.

    Abstract

    In the present study, event-related brain potentials (ERP) were recorded to investigate the role of pitch accent and lexical tone in spoken discourse comprehension. Chinese was used as material to explore the potential difference in the nature and time course of brain responses to sentence meaning as indicated by pitch accent and to lexical meaning as indicated by tone. In both cases, the pitch contour of critical words was varied. The results showed that both inconsistent pitch accent and inconsistent lexical tone yielded N400 effects, and there was no interaction between them. The negativity evoked by inconsistent pitch accent had the some topography as that evoked by inconsistent lexical tone violation, with a maximum over central–parietal electrodes. Furthermore, the effect for the combined violations was the sum of effects for pure pitch accent and pure lexical tone violation. However, the effect for the lexical tone violation appeared approximately 90 ms earlier than the effect of the pitch accent violation. It is suggested that there might be a correspondence between the neural mechanism underlying pitch accent and lexical meaning processing in context. They both reflect the integration of the current information into a discourse context, independent of whether the current information was sentence meaning indicated by accentuation, or lexical meaning indicated by tone. In addition, lexical meaning was processed earlier than sentence meaning conveyed by pitch accent during spoken language processing.
  • Zwitserlood, I., Ozyurek, A., & Perniss, P. M. (2008). Annotation of sign and gesture cross-linguistically. In O. Crasborn, E. Efthimiou, T. Hanke, E. D. Thoutenhoofd, & I. Zwitserlood (Eds.), Construction and Exploitation of Sign Language Corpora. 3rd Workshop on the Representation and Processing of Sign Languages (pp. 185-190). Paris: ELDA.

    Abstract

    This paper discusses the construction of a cross-linguistic, bimodal corpus containing three modes of expression: expressions from two sign languages, speech and gestural expressions in two spoken languages and pantomimic expressions by users of two spoken languages who are requested to convey information without speaking. We discuss some problems and tentative solutions for the annotation of utterances expressing spatial information about referents in these three modes, suggesting a set of comparable codes for the description of both sign and gesture. Furthermore, we discuss the processing of entered annotations in ELAN, e.g. relating descriptive annotations to analytic annotations in all three modes and performing relational searches across annotations on different tiers.
  • Van Berkum, J. J. A., Brown, C. M., & Hagoort, P. (1999). Early referential context effects in sentence processing: Evidence from event-related brain potentials. Journal of Memory and Language, 41(2), 147-182. doi:10.1006/jmla.1999.2641.

    Abstract

    An event-related brain potentials experiment was carried out to examine the interplay of referential and structural factors during sentence processing in discourse. Subjects read (Dutch) sentences beginning like “David told the girl that … ” in short story contexts that had introduced either one or two referents for a critical singular noun phrase (“the girl”). The waveforms showed that within 280 ms after onset of the critical noun the reader had already determined whether the noun phrase had a unique referent in earlier discourse. Furthermore, this referential information was immediately used in parsing the rest of the sentence, which was briefly ambiguous between a complement clause (“ … that there would be some visitors”) and a relative clause (“ … that had been on the phone to hang up”). A consistent pattern of P600/SPS effects elicited by various subsequent disambiguations revealed that a two-referent discourse context had led the parser to initially pursue the relative-clause alternative to a larger extent than a one-referent context. Together, the results suggest that during the processing of sentences in discourse, structural and referential sources of information interact on a word-by-word basis.

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