Publications

Displaying 1 - 100 of 111
  • 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
  • Araújo, S., Faísca, L., Bramão, I., Reis, A., & Petersson, K. M. (2015). Lexical and sublexical orthographic processing: An ERP study with skilled and dyslexic adult readers. Brain and Language, 141, 16-27. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2014.11.007.

    Abstract

    This ERP study investigated the cognitive nature of the P1–N1 components during orthographic processing. We used an implicit reading task with various types of stimuli involving different amounts of sublexical or lexical orthographic processing (words, pseudohomophones, pseudowords, nonwords, and symbols), and tested average and dyslexic readers. An orthographic regularity effect (pseudowords– nonwords contrast) was observed in the average but not in the dyslexic group. This suggests an early sensitivity to the dependencies among letters in word-forms that reflect orthographic structure, while the dyslexic brain apparently fails to be appropriately sensitive to these complex features. Moreover, in the adults the N1-response may already reflect lexical access: (i) the N1 was sensitive to the familiar vs. less familiar orthographic sequence contrast; (ii) and early effects of the phonological form (words-pseudohomophones contrast) were also found. Finally, the later N320 component was attenuated in the dyslexics, suggesting suboptimal processing in later stages of phonological analysis.
  • Araújo, S., Reis, A., Petersson, K. M., & Faísca, L. (2015). Rapid automatized naming and reading performance: A meta-analysis. Journal of Educational Psychology, 107(3), 868-883. doi:10.1037/edu0000006.

    Abstract

    Evidence that rapid naming skill is associated with reading ability has become increasingly prevalent in recent years. However, there is considerable variation in the literature concerning the magnitude of this relationship. The objective of the present study was to provide a comprehensive analysis of the evidence on the relationship between rapid automatized naming (RAN) and reading performance. To this end, we conducted a meta-analysis of the correlational relationship between these 2 constructs to (a) determine the overall strength of the RAN–reading association and (b) identify variables that systematically moderate this relationship. A random-effects model analysis of data from 137 studies (857 effect sizes; 28,826 participants) indicated a moderate-to-strong relationship between RAN and reading performance (r = .43, I2 = 68.40). Further analyses revealed that RAN contributes to the 4 measures of reading (word reading, text reading, non-word reading, and reading comprehension), but higher coefficients emerged in favor of real word reading and text reading. RAN stimulus type and type of reading score were the factors with the greatest moderator effect on the magnitude of the RAN–reading relationship. The consistency of orthography and the subjects’ grade level were also found to impact this relationship, although the effect was contingent on reading outcome. It was less evident whether the subjects’ reading proficiency played a role in the relationship. Implications for future studies are discussed.
  • Asaridou, S. S. (2015). An ear for pitch: On the effects of experience and aptitude in processing pitch in language and music. PhD Thesis, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen.
  • Asaridou, S. S., Hagoort, P., & McQueen, J. M. (2015). Effects of early bilingual experience with a tone and a non-tone language on speech-music. PLoS One, 10(12): e0144225. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0144225.

    Abstract

    We investigated music and language processing in a group of early bilinguals who spoke a tone language and a non-tone language (Cantonese and Dutch). We assessed online speech-music processing interactions, that is, interactions that occur when speech and music are processed simultaneously in songs, with a speeded classification task. In this task, participants judged sung pseudowords either musically (based on the direction of the musical interval) or phonologically (based on the identity of the sung vowel). We also assessed longer-term effects of linguistic experience on musical ability, that is, the influence of extensive prior experience with language when processing music. These effects were assessed with a task in which participants had to learn to identify musical intervals and with four pitch-perception tasks. Our hypothesis was that due to their experience in two different languages using lexical versus intonational tone, the early Cantonese-Dutch bilinguals would outperform the Dutch control participants. In online processing, the Cantonese-Dutch bilinguals processed speech and music more holistically than controls. This effect seems to be driven by experience with a tone language, in which integration of segmental and pitch information is fundamental. Regarding longer-term effects of linguistic experience, we found no evidence for a bilingual advantage in either the music-interval learning task or the pitch-perception tasks. Together, these results suggest that being a Cantonese-Dutch bilingual does not have any measurable longer-term effects on pitch and music processing, but does have consequences for how speech and music are processed jointly.

    Additional information

    Data Availability
  • Baggio, G., van Lambalgen, M., & Hagoort, P. (2015). Logic as Marr's computational level: Four case studies. Topics in Cognitive Science, 7, 287-298. doi:10.1111/tops.12125.

    Abstract

    We sketch four applications of Marr's levels-of-analysis methodology to the relations between logic and experimental data in the cognitive neuroscience of language and reasoning. The first part of the paper illustrates the explanatory power of computational level theories based on logic. We show that a Bayesian treatment of the suppression task in reasoning with conditionals is ruled out by EEG data, supporting instead an analysis based on defeasible logic. Further, we describe how results from an EEG study on temporal prepositions can be reanalyzed using formal semantics, addressing a potential confound. The second part of the article demonstrates the predictive power of logical theories drawing on EEG data on processing progressive constructions and on behavioral data on conditional reasoning in people with autism. Logical theories can constrain processing hypotheses all the way down to neurophysiology, and conversely neuroscience data can guide the selection of alternative computational level models of cognition.
  • Bakker, I., Takashima, A., van Hell, J. G., Janzen, G., & McQueen, J. M. (2015). Tracking lexical consolidation with ERPs: Lexical and semantic-priming effects on N400 and LPC responses to newly-learned words. Neuropsychologia, 79, 33-41. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2015.10.020.
  • Bašnákova, J., Van Berkum, J. J. A., Weber, K., & Hagoort, P. (2015). A job interview in the MRI scanner: How does indirectness affect addressees and overhearers? Neuropsychologia, 76, 79-91. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2015.03.030.

    Abstract

    In using language, people not only exchange information, but also navigate their social world – for example, they can express themselves indirectly to avoid losing face. In this functional magnetic resonance imaging study, we investigated the neural correlates of interpreting face-saving indirect replies, in a situation where participants only overheard the replies as part of a conversation between two other people, as well as in a situation where the participants were directly addressed themselves. We created a fictional job interview context where indirect replies serve as a natural communicative strategy to attenuate one’s shortcomings, and asked fMRI participants to either pose scripted questions and receive answers from three putative job candidates (addressee condition) or to listen to someone else interview the same candidates (overhearer condition). In both cases, the need to evaluate the candidate ensured that participants had an active interest in comprehending the replies. Relative to direct replies, face-saving indirect replies increased activation in medial prefrontal cortex, bilateral temporo-parietal junction (TPJ), bilateral inferior frontal gyrus and bilateral middle temporal gyrus, in active overhearers and active addressees alike, with similar effect size, and comparable to findings obtained in an earlier passive listening study (Bašnáková et al., 2013). In contrast, indirectness effects in bilateral anterior insula and pregenual ACC, two regions implicated in emotional salience and empathy, were reliably stronger in addressees than in active overhearers. Our findings indicate that understanding face-saving indirect language requires additional cognitive perspective-taking and other discourse-relevant cognitive processing, to a comparable extent in active overhearers and addressees. Furthermore, they indicate that face-saving indirect language draws upon affective systems more in addressees than in overhearers, presumably because the addressee is the one being managed by a face-saving reply. In all, face-saving indirectness provides a window on the cognitive as well as affect-related neural systems involved in human communication.
  • Bastiaansen, M. C. M., & Hagoort, P. (2015). Frequency-based segregation of syntactic and semantic unification during online sentence level language comprehension. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 27(11), 2095-2107. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_00829.

    Abstract

    During sentence level language comprehension, semantic and syntactic unification are functionally distinct operations. Nevertheless, both recruit roughly the same brain areas (spatially overlapping networks in the left frontotemporal cortex) and happen at the same time (in the first few hundred milliseconds after word onset). We tested the hypothesis that semantic and syntactic unification are segregated by means of neuronal synchronization of the functionally relevant networks in different frequency ranges: gamma (40 Hz and up) for semantic unification and lower beta (10–20 Hz) for syntactic unification. EEG power changes were quantified as participants read either correct sentences, syntactically correct though meaningless sentences (syntactic prose), or sentences that did not contain any syntactic structure (random word lists). Other sentences contained either a semantic anomaly or a syntactic violation at a critical word in the sentence. Larger EEG gamma-band power was observed for semantically coherent than for semantically anomalous sentences. Similarly, beta-band power was larger for syntactically correct sentences than for incorrect ones. These results confirm the existence of a functional dissociation in EEG oscillatory dynamics during sentence level language comprehension that is compatible with the notion of a frequency-based segregation of syntactic and semantic unification.
  • Bastos, A. M., Vezoli, J., Bosman, C. A., Schoffelen, J.-M., Oostenveld, R., Dowdall, J. R., De Weerd, P., Kennedy, H., & Fries, P. (2015). Visual areas exert feedforward and feedback influences through distinct frequency channels. Neuron, 85(2), 390-401. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2014.12.018.

    Abstract

    Visual cortical areas subserve cognitive functions by interacting in both feedforward and feedback directions. While feedforward influences convey sensory signals, feedback influences modulate feedforward signaling according to the current behavioral context. We investigated whether these interareal influences are subserved differentially by rhythmic synchronization. We correlated frequency-specific directed influences among 28 pairs of visual areas with anatomical metrics of the feedforward or feedback character of the respective interareal projections. This revealed that in the primate visual system, feedforward influences are carried by theta-band ( approximately 4 Hz) and gamma-band ( approximately 60-80 Hz) synchronization, and feedback influences by beta-band ( approximately 14-18 Hz) synchronization. The functional directed influences constrain a functional hierarchy similar to the anatomical hierarchy, but exhibiting task-dependent dynamic changes in particular with regard to the hierarchical positions of frontal areas. Our results demonstrate that feedforward and feedback signaling use distinct frequency channels, suggesting that they subserve differential communication requirements.
  • Chang, F., Bauman, M., Pappert, S., & Fitz, H. (2015). Do lemmas speak German?: A verb position effect in German structural priming. Cognitive Science, 39(5), 1113-1130. doi:10.1111/cogs.12184.

    Abstract

    Lexicalized theories of syntax often assume that verb-structure regularities are mediated by lemmas, which abstract over variation in verb tense and aspect. German syntax seems to challenge this assumption, because verb position depends on tense and aspect. To examine how German speakers link these elements, a structural priming study was performed which varied syntactic structure, verb position (encoded by tense and aspect), and verb overlap. Abstract structural priming was found, both within and across verb position, but priming was larger when the verb position was the same between prime and target. Priming was boosted by verb overlap, but there was no interaction with verb position. The results can be explained by a lemma model where tense and aspect are linked to structural choices in German. Since the architecture of this lemma model is not consistent with results from English, a connectionist model was developed which could explain the cross-linguistic variation in the production system. Together, these findings support the view that language learning plays an important role in determining the nature of structural priming in different languages
  • Cronin, K. A., Acheson, D. J., Hernández, P., & Sánchez, A. (2015). Hierarchy is Detrimental for Human Cooperation. Scientific Reports, 5: 18634. doi:10.1038/srep18634.

    Abstract

    Studies of animal behavior consistently demonstrate that the social environment impacts cooperation, yet the effect of social dynamics has been largely excluded from studies of human cooperation. Here, we introduce a novel approach inspired by nonhuman primate research to address how social hierarchies impact human cooperation. Participants competed to earn hierarchy positions and then could cooperate with another individual in the hierarchy by investing in a common effort. Cooperation was achieved if the combined investments exceeded a threshold, and the higher ranked individual distributed the spoils unless control was contested by the partner. Compared to a condition lacking hierarchy, cooperation declined in the presence of a hierarchy due to a decrease in investment by lower ranked individuals. Furthermore, hierarchy was detrimental to cooperation regardless of whether it was earned or arbitrary. These findings mirror results from nonhuman primates and demonstrate that hierarchies are detrimental to cooperation. However, these results deviate from nonhuman primate findings by demonstrating that human behavior is responsive to changing hierarchical structures and suggests partnership dynamics that may improve cooperation. This work introduces a controlled way to investigate the social influences on human behavior, and demonstrates the evolutionary continuity of human behavior with other primate species.
  • Flecken, M., Walbert, K., & Dijkstra, T. (2015). ‘Right now, Sophie ∗swims in the pool?!’: Brain potentials of grammatical aspect processing. Frontiers in Psychology, 6: 1764. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01764.

    Abstract

    We investigated whether brain potentials of grammatical aspect processing resemble semantic or morpho-syntactic processing, or whether they instead are characterized by an entirely distinct pattern in the same individuals. We studied aspect from the perspective of agreement between the temporal information in the context (temporal adverbials, e.g., Right now) and a morpho-syntactic marker of grammatical aspect (e.g., progressive is swimming). Participants read questions providing a temporal context that was progressive (What is Sophie doing in the pool right now?) or habitual (What does Sophie do in the pool every Monday?). Following a lead-in sentence context such as Right now, Sophie…, we measured event-related brain potentials (ERPs) time-locked to verb phrases in four different conditions, e.g., (a) is swimming (control); (b) ∗is cooking (semantic violation); (c) ∗are swimming (morpho-syntactic violation); or (d)?swims (aspect mismatch); …in the pool.” The collected ERPs show typical N400 and P600 effects for semantics and morpho-syntax, while aspect processing elicited an Early Negativity (250–350 ms). The aspect-related Negativity was short-lived and had a central scalp distribution with an anterior onset. This differentiates it not only from the semantic N400 effect, but also from the typical LAN (Left Anterior Negativity), that is frequently reported for various types of agreement processing. Moreover, aspect processing did not show a clear P600 modulation. We argue that the specific context for each item in this experiment provided a trigger for agreement checking with temporal information encoded on the verb, i.e., morphological aspect marking. The aspect-related Negativity obtained for aspect agreement mismatches reflects a violated expectation concerning verbal inflection (in the example above, the expected verb phrase was Sophie is X-ing rather than Sophie X-s in condition d). The absence of an additional P600 for aspect processing suggests that the mismatch did not require additional reintegration or processing costs. This is consistent with participants’ post hoc grammaticality judgements of the same sentences, which overall show a high acceptability of aspect mismatch sentences.

    Additional information

    data sheet 1.docx
  • Flecken, M., Carroll, M., Weimar, K., & Von Stutterheim, C. (2015). Driving along the road or heading for the village? Conceptual differences underlying motion event encoding in French, German, and French-German L2 users. Modern Language Journal, 99(S1), 100-122. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4781.2015.12181.x.

    Abstract

    The typological contrast between verb- and satellite-framed languages (Talmy, 1985) has set the basis for many empirical studies on L2 acquisition. The current analysis goes beyond this typology by looking in detail at the conceptualization of the path of motion in a motion event. We take as a starting point the cognitive salience of specific elements of motion events that are relevant when conceptualizing space. When expressing direction in French, specific spatial relations involving the entity in motion (its alignment and its distance toward a [potential] endpoint) are relevant, given a variety of path verbs in the lexicon expressing this information (e.g., se diriger vers, avancer to direct oneself toward,' to advance'). This is not the case in German (manner verbs in the lexicon mainly). In German, spatial information is packaged in adjuncts and particles and the path of motion is typically structured via features of the ground (entlanglaufen/fahren to walk/drive along') or endpoints (to walk/drive to/toward'). We investigate those fundamental differences in spatial conceptualization in French and German, as reflected in pre-articulatory patterns of attention allocation (measured with eye tracking) to moving entities and endpoints in motion scenes in an event description task. Our focus is on spatial conceptualization in an L2 (French L2 users of German), analyzing the extent to which these L2 users display target-like patterns or traces of L1 conceptualization transfer. Findings show that, in line with directional concepts expressed in verbs, L1 French speakers allocate more attention to entities in motion and endpoints, before utterance onset, than L1 German speakers do. The L2 German speakers pattern with L1 German speakers in the use of manner verbs, but they have not fully acquired the spatial concepts and means that structure the path of motion in the L2. This is reflected in pre-articulatory attention allocation patterns, according to which the L2 speakers pattern with native speakers of their L1 (French). The findings show a continued deep entrenchment of L1-based processing patterns and spatial frames of reference when speakers prepare for speech in an L2
  • Flecken, M., Athanasopoulos, P., Kuipers, J. R., & Thierry, G. (2015). On the road to somewhere: Brain potentials reflect language effects on motion event perception. Cognition, 141, 41-51. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2015.04.006.

    Abstract

    Recent studies have identified neural correlates of language effects on perception in static domains of experience such as colour and objects. The generalization of such effects to dynamic domains like motion events remains elusive. Here, we focus on grammatical differences between languages relevant for the description of motion events and their impact on visual scene perception. Two groups of native speakers of German or English were presented with animated videos featuring a dot travelling along a trajectory towards a geometrical shape (endpoint). English is a language with grammatical aspect in which attention is drawn to trajectory and endpoint of motion events equally. German, in contrast, is a non-aspect language which highlights endpoints. We tested the comparative perceptual saliency of trajectory and endpoint of motion events by presenting motion event animations (primes) followed by a picture symbolising the event (target): In 75% of trials, the animation was followed by a mismatching picture (both trajectory and endpoint were different); in 10% of trials, only the trajectory depicted in the picture matched the prime; in 10% of trials, only the endpoint matched the prime; and in 5% of trials both trajectory and endpoint were matching, which was the condition requiring a response from the participant. In Experiment 1 we recorded event-related brain potentials elicited by the picture in native speakers of German and native speakers of English. German participants exhibited a larger P3 wave in the endpoint match than the trajectory match condition, whereas English speakers showed no P3 amplitude difference between conditions. In Experiment 2 participants performed a behavioural motion matching task using the same stimuli as those used in Experiment 1. German and English participants did not differ in response times showing that motion event verbalisation cannot readily account for the difference in P3 amplitude found in the first experiment. We argue that, even in a non-verbal context, the grammatical properties of the native language and associated sentence-level patterns of event encoding influence motion event perception, such that attention is automatically drawn towards aspects highlighted by the grammar.
  • Francken, J. C., Meijs, E. L., Hagoort, P., van Gaal, S., & de Lange, F. P. (2015). Exploring the automaticity of language-perception interactions: Effects of attention and awareness. Scientific Reports, 5: 17725. doi:10.1038/srep17725.

    Abstract

    Previous studies have shown that language can modulate visual perception, by biasing and/ or enhancing perceptual performance. However, it is still debated where in the brain visual and linguistic information are integrated, and whether the effects of language on perception are automatic and persist even in the absence of awareness of the linguistic material. Here, we aimed to explore the automaticity of language-perception interactions and the neural loci of these interactions in an fMRI study. Participants engaged in a visual motion discrimination task (upward or downward moving dots). Before each trial, a word prime was briefly presented that implied upward or downward motion (e.g., “rise”, “fall”). These word primes strongly influenced behavior: congruent motion words sped up reaction times and improved performance relative to incongruent motion words. Neural congruency effects were only observed in the left middle temporal gyrus, showing higher activity for congruent compared to incongruent conditions. This suggests that higherlevel conceptual areas rather than sensory areas are the locus of language-perception interactions. When motion words were rendered unaware by means of masking, they still affected visual motion perception, suggesting that language-perception interactions may rely on automatic feed-forward integration of perceptual and semantic material in language areas of the brain.
  • Francken, J. C., Meijs, E. L., Ridderinkhof, O. M., Hagoort, P., de Lange, F. P., & van Gaal, S. (2015). Manipulating word awareness dissociates feed-forward from feedback models of language-perception interactions. Neuroscience of consciousness, 1. doi:10.1093/nc/niv003.

    Abstract

    Previous studies suggest that linguistic material can modulate visual perception, but it is unclear at which level of processing these interactions occur. Here we aim to dissociate between two competing models of language–perception interactions: a feed-forward and a feedback model. We capitalized on the fact that the models make different predictions on the role of feedback. We presented unmasked (aware) or masked (unaware) words implying motion (e.g. “rise,” “fall”), directly preceding an upward or downward visual motion stimulus. Crucially, masking leaves intact feed-forward information processing from low- to high-level regions, whereas it abolishes subsequent feedback. Under this condition, participants remained faster and more accurate when the direction implied by the motion word was congruent with the direction of the visual motion stimulus. This suggests that language–perception interactions are driven by the feed-forward convergence of linguistic and perceptual information at higher-level conceptual and decision stages.
  • Francken, J. C., Kok, P., Hagoort, P., & De Lange, F. P. (2015). The behavioral and neural effects of language on motion perception. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 27(1), 175-184. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_00682.

    Abstract

    Perception does not function as an isolated module but is tightly linked with other cognitive functions. Several studies have demonstrated an influence of language on motion perception, but it remains debated at which level of processing this modulation takes place. Some studies argue for an interaction in perceptual areas, but it is also possible that the interaction is mediated by "language areas" that integrate linguistic and visual information. Here, we investigated whether language-perception interactions were specific to the language-dominant left hemisphere by comparing the effects of language on visual material presented in the right (RVF) and left visual fields (LVF). Furthermore, we determined the neural locus of the interaction using fMRI. Participants performed a visual motion detection task. On each trial, the visual motion stimulus was presented in either the LVF or in the RVF, preceded by a centrally presented word (e.g., "rise"). The word could be congruent, incongruent, or neutral with regard to the direction of the visual motion stimulus that was presented subsequently. Participants were faster and more accurate when the direction implied by the motion word was congruent with the direction of the visual motion stimulus. Interestingly, the speed benefit was present only for motion stimuli that were presented in the RVF. We observed a neural counterpart of the behavioral facilitation effects in the left middle temporal gyrus, an area involved in semantic processing of verbal material. Together, our results suggest that semantic information about motion retrieved in language regions may automatically modulate perceptual decisions about motion.
  • Franken, M. K., McQueen, J. M., Hagoort, P., & Acheson, D. J. (2015). Assessing the link between speech perception and production through individual differences. In Proceedings of the 18th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences. Glasgow: the University of Glasgow.

    Abstract

    This study aims to test a prediction of recent theoretical frameworks in speech motor control: if speech production targets are specified in auditory terms, people with better auditory acuity should have more precise speech targets. To investigate this, we had participants perform speech perception and production tasks in a counterbalanced order. To assess speech perception acuity, we used an adaptive speech discrimination task. To assess variability in speech production, participants performed a pseudo-word reading task; formant values were measured for each recording. We predicted that speech production variability to correlate inversely with discrimination performance. The results suggest that people do vary in their production and perceptual abilities, and that better discriminators have more distinctive vowel production targets, confirming our prediction. This study highlights the importance of individual differences in the study of speech motor control, and sheds light on speech production-perception interaction.
  • Franken, M. K., Hagoort, P., & Acheson, D. J. (2015). Modulations of the auditory M100 in an Imitation Task. Brain and Language, 142, 18-23. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2015.01.001.

    Abstract

    Models of speech production explain event-related suppression of the auditory cortical response as reflecting a comparison between auditory predictions and feedback. The present MEG study was designed to test two predictions from this framework: 1) whether the reduced auditory response varies as a function of the mismatch between prediction and feedback; 2) whether individual variation in this response is predictive of speech-motor adaptation. Participants alternated between online imitation and listening tasks. In the imitation task, participants began each trial producing the same vowel (/e/) and subsequently listened to and imitated auditorilypresented vowels varying in acoustic distance from /e/. Results replicated suppression, with a smaller M100 during speaking than listening. Although we did not find unequivocal support for the first prediction, participants with less M100 suppression were better at the imitation task. These results are consistent with the enhancement of M100 serving as an error signal to drive subsequent speech-motor adaptation.
  • Guadalupe, T., Zwiers, M. P., Wittfeld, K., Teumer, A., Vasquez, A. A., Hoogman, M., Hagoort, P., Fernandez, G., Buitelaar, J., van Bokhoven, H., Hegenscheid, K., Völzke, H., Franke, B., Fisher, S. E., Grabe, H. J., & Francks, C. (2015). Asymmetry within and around the human planum temporale is sexually dimorphic and influenced by genes involved in steroid hormone receptor activity. Cortex, 62, 41-55. doi:10.1016/j.cortex.2014.07.015.

    Abstract

    The genetic determinants of cerebral asymmetries are unknown. Sex differences in asymmetry of the planum temporale, that overlaps Wernicke’s classical language area, have been inconsistently reported. Meta-analysis of previous studies has suggested that publication bias established this sex difference in the literature. Using probabilistic definitions of cortical regions we screened over the cerebral cortex for sexual dimorphisms of asymmetry in 2337 healthy subjects, and found the planum temporale to show the strongest sex-linked asymmetry of all regions, which was supported by two further datasets, and also by analysis with the Freesurfer package that performs automated parcellation of cerebral cortical regions. We performed a genome-wide association scan meta-analysis of planum temporale asymmetry in a pooled sample of 3095 subjects, followed by a candidate-driven approach which measured a significant enrichment of association in genes of the ´steroid hormone receptor activity´ and 'steroid metabolic process' pathways. Variants in the genes and pathways identified may affect the role of the planum temporale in language cognition.
  • Hagoort, P. (2015). Het talige brein. In A. Aleman, & H. E. Hulshoff Pol (Eds.), Beeldvorming van het brein: Imaging voor psychiaters en psychologen (pp. 169-176). Utrecht: De Tijdstroom.
  • Hagoort, P. (2015). Spiegelneuronen. In J. Brockmann (Ed.), Wetenschappelijk onkruid: 179 hardnekkige ideeën die vooruitgang blokkeren (pp. 455-457). Amsterdam: Maven Publishing.
  • Holler, J., Kokal, I., Toni, I., Hagoort, P., Kelly, S. D., & Ozyurek, A. (2015). Eye’m talking to you: Speakers’ gaze direction modulates co-speech gesture processing in the right MTG. Social Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience, 10, 255-261. doi:10.1093/scan/nsu047.

    Abstract

    Recipients process information from speech and co-speech gestures, but it is currently unknown how this processing is influenced by the presence of other important social cues, especially gaze direction, a marker of communicative intent. Such cues may modulate neural activity in regions associated either with the processing of ostensive cues, such as eye gaze, or with the processing of semantic information, provided by speech and gesture. Participants were scanned (fMRI) while taking part in triadic communication involving two recipients and a speaker. The speaker uttered sentences that were and were not accompanied by complementary iconic gestures. Crucially, the speaker alternated her gaze direction, thus creating two recipient roles: addressed (direct gaze) vs unaddressed (averted gaze) recipient. The comprehension of Speech&Gesture relative to SpeechOnly utterances recruited middle occipital, middle temporal and inferior frontal gyri, bilaterally. The calcarine sulcus and posterior cingulate cortex were sensitive to differences between direct and averted gaze. Most importantly, Speech&Gesture utterances, but not SpeechOnly utterances, produced additional activity in the right middle temporal gyrus when participants were addressed. Marking communicative intent with gaze direction modulates the processing of speech–gesture utterances in cerebral areas typically associated with the semantic processing of multi-modal communicative acts.
  • Horschig, J. M., Smolders, R., Bonnefond, M., Schoffelen, J.-M., Van den Munckhof, P., Schuurman, P. R., Cools, R., Denys, D., & Jensen, O. (2015). Directed communication between nucleus accumbens and neocortex in humans is differentially supported by synchronization in the theta and alpha band. PLoS One, 10(9): e0138685. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0138685.

    Abstract

    Here, we report evidence for oscillatory bi-directional interactions between the nucleus accumbens and the neocortex in humans. Six patients performed a demanding covert visual attention task while we simultaneously recorded brain activity from deep-brain electrodes implanted in the nucleus accumbens and the surface electroencephalogram (EEG). Both theta and alpha oscillations were strongly coherent with the frontal and parietal EEG during the task. Theta-band coherence increased during processing of the visual stimuli. Granger causality analysis revealed that the nucleus accumbens was communicating with the neocortex primarily in the theta-band, while the cortex was communicating the nucleus accumbens in the alpha-band. These data are consistent with a model, in which theta- and alpha-band oscillations serve dissociable roles: Prior to stimulus processing, the cortex might suppress ongoing processing in the nucleus accumbens by modulating alpha-band activity. Subsequently, upon stimulus presentation, theta oscillations might facilitate the active exchange of stimulus information from the nucleus accumbens to the cortex.
  • Jiang, J., Chen, C., Dai, B., Shi, G., Liu, L., & Lu, C. (2015). Leader emergence through interpersonal neural synchronization. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 112(14), 4274-4279. doi:10.1073/pnas.1422930112.

    Abstract

    The neural mechanism of leader emergence is not well understood. This study investigated (i) whether interpersonal neural synchronization (INS) plays an important role in leader emergence, and (ii) whether INS and leader emergence are associated with the frequency or the quality of communications. Eleven three-member groups were asked to perform a leaderless group discussion (LGD) task, and their brain activities were recorded via functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS)-based hyperscanning. Video recordings of the discussions were coded for leadership and communication. Results showed that the INS for the leader–follower (LF) pairs was higher than that for the follower–follower (FF) pairs in the left temporo-parietal junction (TPJ), an area important for social mentalizing. Although communication frequency was higher for the LF pairs than for the FF pairs, the frequency of leader-initiated and follower-initiated communication did not differ significantly. Moreover, INS for the LF pairs was significantly higher during leader-initiated communication than during follower-initiated communications. In addition, INS for the LF pairs during leader-initiated communication was significantly correlated with the leaders’ communication skills and competence, but not their communication frequency. Finally, leadership could be successfully predicted based on INS as well as communication frequency early during the LGD (before half a minute into the task). In sum, this study found that leader emergence was characterized by high-level neural synchronization between the leader and followers and that the quality, rather than the frequency, of communications was associated with synchronization. These results suggest that leaders emerge because they are able to say the right things at the right time.
  • Kunert, R., & Slevc, L. R. (2015). A commentary on: “Neural overlap in processing music and speech”. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 9: 330. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2015.00330.
  • Kunert, R., Willems, R. M., Casasanto, D., Patel, A. D., & Hagoort, P. (2015). Music and language syntax interact in Broca’s Area: An fMRI study. PLoS One, 10(11): e0141069. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0141069.

    Abstract

    Instrumental music and language are both syntactic systems, employing complex, hierarchically-structured sequences built using implicit structural norms. This organization allows listeners to understand the role of individual words or tones in the context of an unfolding sentence or melody. Previous studies suggest that the brain mechanisms of syntactic processing may be partly shared between music and language. However, functional neuroimaging evidence for anatomical overlap of brain activity involved in linguistic and musical syntactic processing has been lacking. In the present study we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in conjunction with an interference paradigm based on sung sentences. We show that the processing demands of musical syntax (harmony) and language syntax interact in Broca’s area in the left inferior frontal gyrus (without leading to music and language main effects). A language main effect in Broca’s area only emerged in the complex music harmony condition, suggesting that (with our stimuli and tasks) a language effect only becomes visible under conditions of increased demands on shared neural resources. In contrast to previous studies, our design allows us to rule out that the observed neural interaction is due to: (1) general attention mechanisms, as a psychoacoustic auditory anomaly behaved unlike the harmonic manipulation, (2) error processing, as the language and the music stimuli contained no structural errors. The current results thus suggest that two different cognitive domains—music and language—might draw on the same high level syntactic integration resources in Broca’s area.
  • Lai, V. T., & Curran, T. (2015). Erratum to “ERP evidence for conceptual mappings and comparison processes during the comprehension of conventional and novel metaphors” [Brain Lang. 127 (3) (2013) 484–496]. Brain and Language, 149, 148-150. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2014.11.001.
  • Lai, V. T., van Dam, W., Conant, L. L., Binder, J. R., & Desai, R. H. (2015). Familiarity differentially affects right hemisphere contributions to processing metaphors and literals. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 9: 44. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2015.00044.

    Abstract

    The role of the two hemispheres in processing metaphoric language is controversial. While some studies have reported a special role of the right hemisphere (RH) in processing metaphors, others indicate no difference in laterality relative to literal language. Some studies have found a role of the RH for novel/unfamiliar metaphors, but not conventional/familiar metaphors. It is not clear, however, whether the role of the RH is specific to metaphor novelty, or whether it reflects processing, reinterpretation or reanalysis of novel/unfamiliar language in general. Here we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the effects of familiarity in both metaphoric and non-metaphoric sentences. A left lateralized network containing the middle and inferior frontal gyri, posterior temporal regions in the left hemisphere (LH), and inferior frontal regions in the RH, was engaged across both metaphoric and non-metaphoric sentences; engagement of this network decreased as familiarity decreased. No region was engaged selectively for greater metaphoric unfamiliarity. An analysis of laterality, however, showed that the contribution of the RH relative to that of LH does increase in a metaphorspecific manner as familiarity decreases. These results show that RH regions, taken by themselves, including commonly reported regions such as the right inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), are responsive to increased cognitive demands of processing unfamiliar stimuli, rather than being metaphor-selective. The division of labor between the two hemispheres, however, does shift towards the right for metaphoric processing. The shift results not because the RH contributes more to metaphoric processing. Rather, relative to its contribution for processing literals, the LH contributes less.
  • Lai, V. T., Willems, R. M., & Hagoort, P. (2015). Feel between the Lines: Implied emotion from combinatorial semantics. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 27(8), 1528-1541. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_00798.

    Abstract

    This study investigated the brain regions for the comprehension of implied emotion in sentences. Participants read negative sentences without negative words, for example, “The boy fell asleep and never woke up again,” and their neutral counterparts “The boy stood up and grabbed his bag.” This kind of negative sentence allows us to examine implied emotion derived at the sentence level, without associative emotion coming from word retrieval. We found that implied emotion in sentences, relative to neutral sentences, led to activation in some emotion-related areas, including the medial prefrontal cortex, the amygdala, and the insula, as well as certain language-related areas, including the inferior frontal gyrus, which has been implicated in combinatorial processing. These results suggest that the emotional network involved in implied emotion is intricately related to the network for combinatorial processing in language, supporting the view that sentence meaning is more than simply concatenating the meanings of its lexical building blocks.
  • Lai, V. T., & Narasimhan, B. (2015). Verb representation and thinking-for-speaking effects in Spanish-English bilinguals. In R. G. De Almeida, & C. Manouilidou (Eds.), Cognitive science perspectives on verb representation and processing (pp. 235-256). Cham: Springer.

    Abstract

    Speakers of English habitually encode motion events using manner-of-motion verbs (e.g., spin, roll, slide) whereas Spanish speakers rely on path-of-motion verbs (e.g., enter, exit, approach). Here, we ask whether the language-specific verb representations used in encoding motion events induce different modes of “thinking-for-speaking” in Spanish–English bilinguals. That is, assuming that the verb encodes the most salient information in the clause, do bilinguals find the path of motion to be more salient than manner of motion if they had previously described the motion event using Spanish versus English? In our study, Spanish–English bilinguals described a set of target motion events in either English or Spanish and then participated in a nonlinguistic similarity judgment task in which they viewed the target motion events individually (e.g., a ball rolling into a cave) followed by two variants a “same-path” variant such as a ball sliding into a cave or a “same-manner” variant such as a ball rolling away from a cave). Participants had to select one of the two variants that they judged to be more similar to the target event: The event that shared the same path of motion as the target versus the one that shared the same manner of motion. Our findings show that bilingual speakers were more likely to classify two motion events as being similar if they shared the same path of motion and if they had previously described the target motion events in Spanish versus in English. Our study provides further evidence for the “thinking-for-speaking” hypothesis by demonstrating that bilingual speakers can flexibly shift between language-specific construals of the same event “on-the-fly.”
  • Lewis, A. G., & Bastiaansen, M. C. M. (2015). A predictive coding framework for rapid neural dynamics during sentence-level language comprehension. Cortex, 68, 155-168. doi:10.1016/j.cortex.2015.02.014.

    Abstract

    There is a growing literature investigating the relationship between oscillatory neural dynamics measured using EEG and/or MEG, and sentence-level language comprehension. Recent proposals have suggested a strong link between predictive coding accounts of the hierarchical flow of information in the brain, and oscillatory neural dynamics in the beta and gamma frequency ranges. We propose that findings relating beta and gamma oscillations to sentence-level language comprehension might be unified under such a predictive coding account. Our suggestion is that oscillatory activity in the beta frequency range may reflect both the active maintenance of the current network configuration responsible for representing the sentence-level meaning under construction, and the top-down propagation of predictions to hierarchically lower processing levels based on that representation. In addition, we suggest that oscillatory activity in the low and middle gamma range reflect the matching of top-down predictions with bottom-up linguistic input, while evoked high gamma might reflect the propagation of bottom-up prediction errors to higher levels of the processing hierarchy. We also discuss some of the implications of this predictive coding framework, and we outline ideas for how these might be tested experimentally
  • Lewis, A. G., Wang, L., & Bastiaansen, M. C. M. (2015). Fast oscillatory dynamics during language comprehension: Unification versus maintenance and prediction? Brain and Language, 148, 51-63. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2015.01.003.

    Abstract

    The role of neuronal oscillations during language comprehension is not yet well understood. In this paper we review and reinterpret the functional roles of beta- and gamma-band oscillatory activity during language comprehension at the sentence and discourse level. We discuss the evidence in favor of a role for beta and gamma in unification (the unification hypothesis), and in light of mounting evidence that cannot be accounted for under this hypothesis, we explore an alternative proposal linking beta and gamma oscillations to maintenance and prediction (respectively) during language comprehension. Our maintenance/prediction hypothesis is able to account for most of the findings that are currently available relating beta and gamma oscillations to language comprehension, and is in good agreement with other proposals about the roles of beta and gamma in domain-general cognitive processing. In conclusion we discuss proposals for further testing and comparing the prediction and unification hypotheses.
  • Lockwood, G., & Dingemanse, M. (2015). Iconicity in the lab: A review of behavioural, developmental, and neuroimaging research into sound-symbolism. Frontiers in Psychology, 6: 1246. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01246.

    Abstract

    This review covers experimental approaches to sound-symbolism—from infants to adults, and from Sapir’s foundational studies to twenty-first century product naming. It synthesizes recent behavioral, developmental, and neuroimaging work into a systematic overview of the cross-modal correspondences that underpin iconic links between form and meaning. It also identifies open questions and opportunities, showing how the future course of experimental iconicity research can benefit from an integrated interdisciplinary perspective. Combining insights from psychology and neuroscience with evidence from natural languages provides us with opportunities for the experimental investigation of the role of sound-symbolism in language learning, language processing, and communication. The review finishes by describing how hypothesis-testing and model-building will help contribute to a cumulative science of sound-symbolism in human language.
  • Lockwood, G., & Tuomainen, J. (2015). Ideophones in Japanese modulate the P2 and late positive complex responses. Frontiers in Psychology, 6: 933. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00933.

    Abstract

    Sound-symbolism, or the direct link between sound and meaning, is typologically and behaviorally attested across languages. However, neuroimaging research has mostly focused on artificial non-words or individual segments, which do not represent sound-symbolism in natural language. We used EEG to compare Japanese ideophones, which are phonologically distinctive sound-symbolic lexical words, and arbitrary adverbs during a sentence reading task. Ideophones elicit a larger visual P2 response and a sustained late positive complex in comparison to arbitrary adverbs. These results and previous literature suggest that the larger P2 may indicate the integration of sound and sensory information by association in response to the distinctive phonology of ideophones. The late positive complex may reflect the facilitated lexical retrieval of ideophones in comparison to arbitrary words. This account provides new evidence that ideophones exhibit similar cross-modal correspondences to those which have been proposed for non-words and individual sounds, and that these effects are detectable in natural language.
  • Moreno, I., De Vega, M., León, I., Bastiaansen, M. C. M., Lewis, A. G., & Magyari, L. (2015). Brain dynamics in the comprehension of action-related language. A time-frequency analysis of mu rhythms. Neuroimage, 109, 50-62. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.01.018.

    Abstract

    EEG mu rhythms (8-13Hz) recorded at fronto-central electrodes are generally considered as markers of motor cortical activity in humans, because they are modulated when participants perform an action, when they observe another’s action or even when they imagine performing an action. In this study, we analyzed the time-frequency (TF) modulation of mu rhythms while participants read action language (“You will cut the strawberry cake”), abstract language (“You will doubt the patient´s argument”), and perceptive language (“You will notice the bright day”). The results indicated that mu suppression at fronto-central sites is associated with action language rather than with abstract or perceptive language. Also, the largest difference between conditions occurred quite late in the sentence, while reading the first noun, (contrast Action vs. Abstract), or the second noun following the action verb (contrast Action vs. Perceptive). This suggests that motor activation is associated with the integration of words across the sentence beyond the lexical processing of the action verb. Source reconstruction localized mu suppression associated with action sentences in premotor cortex (BA 6). The present study suggests (1) that the understanding of action language activates motor networks in the human brain, and (2) that this activation occurs online based on semantic integration across multiple words in the sentence.
  • Nijhoff, A. D., & Willems, R. M. (2015). Simulating fiction: Individual differences in literature comprehension revealed with fMRI. PLoS One, 10(2): e0116492. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0116492.

    Abstract

    When we read literary fiction, we are transported to fictional places, and we feel and think along with the characters. Despite the importance of narrative in adult life and during development, the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying fiction comprehension are unclear. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate how individuals differently employ neural networks important for understanding others’ beliefs and intentions (mentalizing), and for sensori-motor simulation while listening to excerpts from literary novels. Localizer tasks were used to localize both the cortical motor network and the mentalizing network in participants after they listened to excerpts from literary novels. Results show that participants who had high activation in anterior medial prefrontal cortex (aMPFC; part of the mentalizing network) when listening to mentalizing content of literary fiction, had lower motor cortex activity when they listened to action-related content of the story, and vice versa. This qualifies how people differ in their engagement with fiction: some people are mostly drawn into a story by mentalizing about the thoughts and beliefs of others, whereas others engage in literature by simulating more concrete events such as actions. This study provides on-line neural evidence for the existence of qualitatively different styles of moving into literary worlds, and adds to a growing body of literature showing the potential to study narrative comprehension with neuroimaging methods.
  • Peeters, D. (2015). A social and neurobiological approach to pointing in speech and gesture. PhD Thesis, Radboud University, Nijmegen.
  • Peeters, D., Chu, M., Holler, J., Hagoort, P., & Ozyurek, A. (2015). Electrophysiological and kinematic correlates of communicative intent in the planning and production of pointing gestures and speech. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 27(12), 2352-2368. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_00865.

    Abstract

    In everyday human communication, we often express our communicative intentions by manually pointing out referents in the material world around us to an addressee, often in tight synchronization with referential speech. This study investigated whether and how the kinematic form of index finger pointing gestures is shaped by the gesturer's communicative intentions and how this is modulated by the presence of concurrently produced speech. Furthermore, we explored the neural mechanisms underpinning the planning of communicative pointing gestures and speech. Two experiments were carried out in which participants pointed at referents for an addressee while the informativeness of their gestures and speech was varied. Kinematic and electrophysiological data were recorded online. It was found that participants prolonged the duration of the stroke and poststroke hold phase of their gesture to be more communicative, in particular when the gesture was carrying the main informational burden in their multimodal utterance. Frontal and P300 effects in the ERPs suggested the importance of intentional and modality-independent attentional mechanisms during the planning phase of informative pointing gestures. These findings contribute to a better understanding of the complex interplay between action, attention, intention, and language in the production of pointing gestures, a communicative act core to human interaction.
  • Peeters, D., Hagoort, P., & Ozyurek, A. (2015). Electrophysiological evidence for the role of shared space in online comprehension of spatial demonstratives. Cognition, 136, 64-84. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2014.10.010.

    Abstract

    A fundamental property of language is that it can be used to refer to entities in the extra-linguistic physical context of a conversation in order to establish a joint focus of attention on a referent. Typological and psycholinguistic work across a wide range of languages has put forward at least two different theoretical views on demonstrative reference. Here we contrasted and tested these two accounts by investigating the electrophysiological brain activity underlying the construction of indexical meaning in comprehension. In two EEG experiments, participants watched pictures of a speaker who referred to one of two objects using speech and an index-finger pointing gesture. In contrast with separately collected native speakers’ linguistic intuitions, N400 effects showed a preference for a proximal demonstrative when speaker and addressee were in a face-to-face orientation and all possible referents were located in the shared space between them, irrespective of the physical proximity of the referent to the speaker. These findings reject egocentric proximity-based accounts of demonstrative reference, support a sociocentric approach to deixis, suggest that interlocutors construe a shared space during conversation, and imply that the psychological proximity of a referent may be more important than its physical proximity.
  • Peeters, D., Snijders, T. M., Hagoort, P., & Ozyurek, A. (2015). The role of left inferior frontal Gyrus in the integration of point- ing gestures and speech. In G. Ferré, & M. Tutton (Eds.), Proceedings of the4th GESPIN - Gesture & Speech in Interaction Conference. Nantes: Université de Nantes.

    Abstract

    Comprehension of pointing gestures is fundamental to human communication. However, the neural mechanisms that subserve the integration of pointing gestures and speech in visual contexts in comprehension are unclear. Here we present the results of an fMRI study in which participants watched images of an actor pointing at an object while they listened to her referential speech. The use of a mismatch paradigm revealed that the semantic unication of pointing gesture and speech in a triadic context recruits left inferior frontal gyrus. Complementing previous ndings, this suggests that left inferior frontal gyrus semantically integrates information across modalities and semiotic domains.

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