Publications

Displaying 1 - 57 of 57
  • Bastiaanse, R., De Goede, D., & Love, T. (2009). Auditory sentence processing: An introduction. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 38(3), 177-179. doi:10.1007/s10936-009-9109-3.
  • Casasanto, D. (2009). [Review of the book Music, language, and the brain by Aniruddh D. Patel]. Language and Cognition, 1(1), 143-146. doi:10.1515/LANGCOG.2009.007.

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  • Casasanto, D. (2009). Embodiment of abstract concepts: Good and bad in right- and left-handers. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 138, 351-367. doi:10.1037/a0015854.

    Abstract

    Do people with different kinds of bodies think differently? According to the body-specificity hypothesis, people who interact with their physical environments in systematically different ways should form correspondingly different mental representations. In a test of this hypothesis, 5 experiments investigated links between handedness and the mental representation of abstract concepts with positive or negative valence (e.g., honesty, sadness, intelligence). Mappings from spatial location to emotional valence differed between right- and left-handed participants. Right-handers tended to associate rightward space with positive ideas and leftward space with negative ideas, but left-handers showed the opposite pattern, associating rightward space with negative ideas and leftward with positive ideas. These contrasting mental metaphors for valence cannot be attributed to linguistic experience, because idioms in English associate good with right but not with left. Rather, right- and left-handers implicitly associated positive valence more strongly with the side of space on which they could act more fluently with their dominant hands. These results support the body-specificity hypothesis and provide evidence for the perceptuomotor basis of even the most abstract ideas.
  • Davids, N., Van den Brink, D., Van Turennout, M., Mitterer, H., & Verhoeven, L. (2009). Towards neurophysiological assessment of phonemic discrimination: Context effects of the mismatch negativity. Clinical Neurophysiology, 120, 1078-1086. doi:10.1016/j.clinph.2009.01.018.

    Abstract

    This study focusses on the optimal paradigm for simultaneous assessment of auditory and phonemic discrimination in clinical populations. We investigated (a) whether pitch and phonemic deviants presented together in one sequence are able to elicit mismatch negativities (MMNs) in healthy adults and (b) whether MMN elicited by a change in pitch is modulated by the presence of the phonemic deviants.
  • Dediu, D. (2009). Genetic biasing through cultural transmission: Do simple Bayesian models of language evolution generalize? Journal of Theoretical Biology, 259, 552-561. doi:10.1016/j.jtbi.2009.04.004.

    Abstract

    The recent Bayesian approaches to language evolution and change seem to suggest that genetic biases can impact on the characteristics of language, but, at the same time, that its cultural transmission can partially free it from these same genetic constraints. One of the current debates centres on the striking differences between sampling and a posteriori maximising Bayesian learners, with the first converging on the prior bias while the latter allows a certain freedom to language evolution. The present paper shows that this difference disappears if populations more complex than a single teacher and a single learner are considered, with the resulting behaviours more similar to the sampler. This suggests that generalisations based on the language produced by Bayesian agents in such homogeneous single agent chains are not warranted. It is not clear which of the assumptions in such models are responsible, but these findings seem to support the rising concerns on the validity of the “acquisitionist” assumption, whereby the locus of language change and evolution is taken to be the first language acquirers (children) as opposed to the competent language users (the adults).
  • De Goede, D., Shapiro, L. P., Wester, F., Swinney, D. A., & Bastiaanse, Y. R. M. (2009). The time course of verb processing in Dutch sentences. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 38(3), 181-199. doi:10.1007/s10936-009-9117-3.

    Abstract

    The verb has traditionally been characterized as the central element in a sentence. Nevertheless, the exact role of the verb during the actual ongoing comprehension of a sentence as it unfolds in time remains largely unknown. This paper reports the results of two Cross-Modal Lexical Priming (CMLP) experiments detailing the pattern of verb priming during on-line processing of Dutch sentences. Results are contrasted with data from a third CMLP experiment on priming of nouns in similar sentences. It is demonstrated that the meaning of a matrix verb remains active throughout the entire matrix clause, while this is not the case for the meaning of a subject head noun. Activation of the meaning of the verb only dissipates upon encountering a clear signal as to the start of a new clause.
  • Hagoort, P., & Levelt, W. J. M. (2009). The speaking brain. Science, 326(5951), 372-373. doi:10.1126/science.1181675.

    Abstract

    How does intention to speak become the action of speaking? It involves the generation of a preverbal message that is tailored to the requirements of a particular language, and through a series of steps, the message is transformed into a linear sequence of speech sounds (1, 2). These steps include retrieving different kinds of information from memory (semantic, syntactic, and phonological), and combining them into larger structures, a process called unification. Despite general agreement about the steps that connect intention to articulation, there is no consensus about their temporal profile or the role of feedback from later steps (3, 4). In addition, since the discovery by the French physician Pierre Paul Broca (in 1865) of the role of the left inferior frontal cortex in speaking, relatively little progress has been made in understanding the neural infrastructure that supports speech production (5). One reason is that the characteristics of natural language are uniquely human, and thus the neurobiology of language lacks an adequate animal model. But on page 445 of this issue, Sahin et al. (6) demonstrate, by recording neuronal activity in the human brain, that different kinds of linguistic information are indeed sequentially processed within Broca's area.
  • Kooijman, V., Hagoort, P., & Cutler, A. (2009). Prosodic structure in early word segmentation: ERP evidence from Dutch ten-month-olds. Infancy, 14, 591 -612. doi:10.1080/15250000903263957.

    Abstract

    Recognizing word boundaries in continuous speech requires detailed knowledge of the native language. In the first year of life, infants acquire considerable word segmentation abilities. Infants at this early stage in word segmentation rely to a large extent on the metrical pattern of their native language, at least in stress-based languages. In Dutch and English (both languages with a preferred trochaic stress pattern), segmentation of strong-weak words develops rapidly between 7 and 10 months of age. Nevertheless, trochaic languages contain not only strong-weak words but also words with a weak-strong stress pattern. In this article, we present electrophysiological evidence of the beginnings of weak-strong word segmentation in Dutch 10-month-olds. At this age, the ability to combine different cues for efficient word segmentation does not yet seem to be completely developed. We provide evidence that Dutch infants still largely rely on strong syllables, even for the segmentation of weak-strong words.
  • Koten Jr., J. W., Wood, G., Hagoort, P., Goebel, R., Propping, P., Willmes, K., & Boomsma, D. I. (2009). Genetic contribution to variation in cognitive function: An fMRI study in twins. Science, 323(5922), 1737-1740. doi:10.1126/science.1167371.

    Abstract

    Little is known about the genetic contribution to individual differences in neural networks subserving cognition function. In this functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) twin study, we found a significant genetic influence on brain activation in neural networks supporting digit working memory tasks. Participants activating frontal-parietal networks responded faster than individuals relying more on language-related brain networks.There were genetic influences on brain activation in language-relevant brain circuits that were atypical for numerical working memory tasks as such. This suggests that differences in cognition might be related to brain activation patterns that differ qualitatively among individuals.
  • De Lange, F. P., Koers, A., Kalkman, J. S., Bleijenberg, G., Hagoort, P., Van der Meer, J. W. M., & Toni, I. (2009). Reply to: "Can CBT substantially change grey matter volume in chronic fatigue syndrome" [Letter to the editor]. Brain, 132(6), e111. doi:10.1093/brain/awn208.
  • De Lange, F., Bleijenberg, G., Van der Meer, J. W. M., Hagoort, P., & Toni, I. (2009). Reply: Change in grey matter volume cannot be assumed to be due to cognitive behavioural therapy [Letter to the editor]. Brain, 132(7), e120. doi:10.1093/brain/awn359.
  • De Lange, F. P., Knoop, H., Bleijenberg, G., Van der Meer, J. W. M., Hagoort, P., & Toni, I. (2009). The experience of fatigue in the brain [Letter to the editor]. Psychological Medicine, 39, 523-524. doi:10.1017/S0033291708004844.
  • Menenti, L., Petersson, K. M., Scheeringa, R., & Hagoort, P. (2009). When elephants fly: Differential sensitivity of right and left inferior frontal gyri to discourse and world knowledge. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 21, 2358-2368. doi:10.1162/jocn.2008.21163.

    Abstract

    Both local discourse and world knowledge are known to influence sentence processing. We investigated how these two sources of information conspire in language comprehension. Two types of critical sentences, correct and world knowledge anomalies, were preceded by either a neutral or a local context. The latter made the world knowledge anomalies more acceptable or plausible. We predicted that the effect of world knowledge anomalies would be weaker for the local context. World knowledge effects have previously been observed in the left inferior frontal region (Brodmann's area 45/47). In the current study, an effect of world knowledge was present in this region in the neutral context. We also observed an effect in the right inferior frontal gyrus, which was more sensitive to the discourse manipulation than the left inferior frontal gyrus. In addition, the left angular gyrus reacted strongly to the degree of discourse coherence between the context and critical sentence. Overall, both world knowledge and the discourse context affect the process of meaning unification, but do so by recruiting partly different sets of brain areas.
  • Newman-Norlund, S. E., Noordzij, M. L., Newman-Norlund, R. D., Volman, I. A., De Ruiter, J. P., Hagoort, P., & Toni, I. (2009). Recipient design in tacit communication. Cognition, 111, 46-54. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2008.12.004.

    Abstract

    The ability to design tailored messages for specific listeners is an important aspect of human communication. The present study investigates whether a mere belief about an addressee’s identity influences the generation and production of a communicative message in a novel, non-verbal communication task. Participants were made to believe they were playing a game with a child or an adult partner, while a confederate acted as both child and adult partners with matched performance and response times. The participants’ belief influenced their behavior, spending longer when interacting with the presumed child addressee, but only during communicative portions of the game, i.e. using time as a tool to place emphasis on target information. This communicative adaptation attenuated with experience, and it was related to personality traits, namely Empathy and Need for Cognition measures. Overall, these findings indicate that novel nonverbal communicative interactions are selected according to a socio-centric perspective, and they are strongly influenced by participants’ traits.
  • Noordzij, M., Newman-Norlund, S. E., De Ruiter, J. P., Hagoort, P., Levinson, S. C., & Toni, I. (2009). Brain mechanisms underlying human communication. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 3:14. doi:10.3389/neuro.09.014.2009.

    Abstract

    Human communication has been described as involving the coding-decoding of a conventional symbol system, which could be supported by parts of the human motor system (i.e. the “mirror neurons system”). However, this view does not explain how these conventions could develop in the first place. Here we target the neglected but crucial issue of how people organize their non-verbal behavior to communicate a given intention without pre-established conventions. We have measured behavioral and brain responses in pairs of subjects during communicative exchanges occurring in a real, interactive, on-line social context. In two fMRI studies, we found robust evidence that planning new communicative actions (by a sender) and recognizing the communicative intention of the same actions (by a receiver) relied on spatially overlapping portions of their brains (the right posterior superior temporal sulcus). The response of this region was lateralized to the right hemisphere, modulated by the ambiguity in meaning of the communicative acts, but not by their sensorimotor complexity. These results indicate that the sender of a communicative signal uses his own intention recognition system to make a prediction of the intention recognition performed by the receiver. This finding supports the notion that our communicative abilities are distinct from both sensorimotor processes and language abilities.
  • Otten, M., & Van Berkum, J. J. A. (2009). Does working memory capacity affect the ability to predict upcoming words in discourse? Brain Research, 1291, 92-101. doi:doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2009.07.042.

    Abstract

    Prior research has indicated that readers and listeners can use information in the prior discourse to rapidly predict specific upcoming words, as the text is unfolding. Here we used event-related potentials to explore whether the ability to make rapid online predictions depends on a reader's working memory capacity (WMC). Readers with low WMC were hypothesized to differ from high WMC readers either in their overall capability to make predictions (because of their lack of cognitive resources). High and low WMC participants read highly constraining stories that supported the prediction of a specific noun, mixed with coherent but essentially unpredictive ‘prime control’ control stories that contained the same content words as the predictive stories. To test whether readers were anticipating upcoming words, critical nouns were preceded by a determiner whose gender agreed or disagreed with the gender of the expected noun. In predictive stories, both high and low WMC readers displayed an early negative deflection (300–600 ms) to unexpected determiners, which was not present in prime control stories. Only the low WMC participants displayed an additional later negativity (900–1500 ms) to unexpected determiners. This pattern of results suggests that WMC does not influence the ability to anticipate upcoming words per se, but does change the way in which readers deal with information that disconfirms the generated prediction.
  • Pijnacker, J., Geurts, B., Van Lambalgen, M., Kan, C. C., Buitelaar, J. K., & Hagoort, P. (2009). Defeasible reasoning in high-functioning adults with autism: Evidence for impaired exception-handling. Neuropsychologia, 47, 644-651. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2008.11.011.

    Abstract

    While autism is one of the most intensively researched psychiatric disorders, little is known about reasoning skills of people with autism. The focus of this study was on defeasible inferences, that is inferences that can be revised in the light of new information. We used a behavioral task to investigate (a) conditional reasoning and (b) the suppression of conditional inferences in high-functioning adults with autism. In the suppression task a possible exception was made salient which could prevent a conclusion from being drawn. We predicted that the autism group would have difficulties dealing with such exceptions because they require mental flexibility to adjust to the context, which is often impaired in autism. The findings confirm our hypothesis that high-functioning adults with autism have a specific difficulty with exception-handling during reasoning. It is suggested that defeasible reasoning is also involved in other cognitive domains. Implications for neural underpinnings of reasoning and autism are discussed.
  • Pijnacker, J., Hagoort, P., Buitelaar, J., Teunisse, J.-P., & Geurts, B. (2009). Pragmatic inferences in high-functioning adults with autism and Asperger syndrome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 39(4), 607-618. doi:10.1007/s10803-008-0661-8.

    Abstract

    Although people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) often have severe problems with pragmatic aspects of language, little is known about their pragmatic reasoning. We carried out a behavioral study on highfunctioning adults with autistic disorder (n = 11) and Asperger syndrome (n = 17) and matched controls (n = 28) to investigate whether they are capable of deriving scalar implicatures, which are generally considered to be pragmatic inferences. Participants were presented with underinformative sentences like ‘‘Some sparrows are birds’’. This sentence is logically true, but pragmatically inappropriate if the scalar implicature ‘‘Not all sparrows are birds’’ is derived. The present findings indicate that the combined ASD group was just as likely as controls to derive scalar implicatures, yet there was a difference between participants with autistic disorder and Asperger syndrome, suggesting a potential differentiation between these disorders in pragmatic reasoning. Moreover, our results suggest that verbal intelligence is a constraint for task performance in autistic disorder but not in Asperger syndrome.
  • Scheeringa, R., Petersson, K. M., Oostenveld, R., Norris, D. G., Hagoort, P., & Bastiaansen, M. C. M. (2009). Trial-by-trial coupling between EEG and BOLD identifies networks related to alpha and theta EEG power increases during working memory maintenance. Neuroimage, 44, 1224-1238. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2008.08.041.

    Abstract

    PET and fMRI experiments have previously shown that several brain regions in the frontal and parietal lobe are involved in working memory maintenance. MEG and EEG experiments have shown parametric increases with load for oscillatory activity in posterior alpha and frontal theta power. In the current study we investigated whether the areas found with fMRI can be associated with these alpha and theta effects by measuring simultaneous EEG and fMRI during a modified Sternberg task This allowed us to correlate EEG at the single trial level with the fMRI BOLD signal by forming a regressor based on single trial alpha and theta power estimates. We observed a right posterior, parametric alpha power increase, which was functionally related to decreases in BOLD in the primary visual cortex and in the posterior part of the right middle temporal gyrus. We relate this finding to the inhibition of neuronal activity that may interfere with WM maintenance. An observed parametric increase in frontal theta power was correlated to a decrease in BOLD in regions that together form the default mode network. We did not observe correlations between oscillatory EEG phenomena and BOLD in the traditional WM areas. In conclusion, the study shows that simultaneous EEG fMRI recordings can be successfully used to identify the emergence of functional networks in the brain during the execution of a cognitive task.
  • Segaert, K., Nygård, G. E., & Wagemans, J. (2009). Identification of everyday objects on the basis of kinetic contours. Vision Research, 49(4), 417-428. doi:10.1016/j.visres.2008.11.012.

    Abstract

    Using kinetic contours derived from everyday objects, we investigated how motion affects object identification. In order not to be distinguishable when static, kinetic contours were made from random dot displays consisting of two regions, inside and outside the object contour. In Experiment 1, the dots were moving in only one of two regions. The objects were identified nearly equally well as soon as the dots either in the figure or in the background started to move. RTs decreased with increasing motion coherence levels and were shorter for complex, less compact objects than for simple, more compact objects. In Experiment 2, objects could be identified when the dots were moving both in the figure and in the background with speed and direction differences between the two. A linear increase in either the speed difference or the direction difference caused a linear decrease in RT for correct identification. In addition, the combination of speed and motion differences appeared to be super-additive.
  • Snijders, T. M., Vosse, T., Kempen, G., Van Berkum, J. J. A., Petersson, K. M., & Hagoort, P. (2009). Retrieval and unification of syntactic structure in sentence comprehension: An fMRI study using word-category ambiguity. Cerebral Cortex, 19, 1493-1503. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhn187.

    Abstract

    Sentence comprehension requires the retrieval of single word information from long-term memory, and the integration of this information into multiword representations. The current functional magnetic resonance imaging study explored the hypothesis that the left posterior temporal gyrus supports the retrieval of lexical-syntactic information, whereas left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG) contributes to syntactic unification. Twenty-eight subjects read sentences and word sequences containing word-category (noun–verb) ambiguous words at critical positions. Regions contributing to the syntactic unification process should show enhanced activation for sentences compared to words, and only within sentences display a larger signal for ambiguous than unambiguous conditions. The posterior LIFG showed exactly this predicted pattern, confirming our hypothesis that LIFG contributes to syntactic unification. The left posterior middle temporal gyrus was activated more for ambiguous than unambiguous conditions (main effect over both sentences and word sequences), as predicted for regions subserving the retrieval of lexical-syntactic information from memory. We conclude that understanding language involves the dynamic interplay between left inferior frontal and left posterior temporal regions.

    Additional information

    suppl1.pdf suppl2_dutch_stimulus.pdf
  • Tesink, C. M. J. Y., Buitelaar, J. K., Petersson, K. M., Van der Gaag, R. J., Kan, C. C., Tendolkar, I., & Hagoort, P. (2009). Neural correlates of pragmatic language comprehension in autism disorders. Brain, 132, 1941-1952. doi:10.1093/brain/awp103.

    Abstract

    Difficulties with pragmatic aspects of communication are universal across individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Here we focused on an aspect of pragmatic language comprehension that is relevant to social interaction in daily life: the integration of speaker characteristics inferred from the voice with the content of a message. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we examined the neural correlates of the integration of voice-based inferences about the speaker’s age, gender or social background, and sentence content in adults with ASD and matched control participants. Relative to the control group, the ASD group showed increased activation in right inferior frontal gyrus (RIFG; Brodmann area 47) for speakerincongruent sentences compared to speaker-congruent sentences. Given that both groups performed behaviourally at a similar level on a debriefing interview outside the scanner, the increased activation in RIFG for the ASD group was interpreted as being compensatory in nature. It presumably reflects spill-over processing from the language dominant left hemisphere due to higher task demands faced by the participants with ASD when integrating speaker characteristics and the content of a spoken sentence. Furthermore, only the control group showed decreased activation for speaker-incongruent relative to speaker-congruent sentences in right ventral medial prefrontal cortex (vMPFC; Brodmann area 10), including right anterior cingulate cortex (ACC; Brodmann area 24/32). Since vMPFC is involved in self-referential processing related to judgments and inferences about self and others, the absence of such a modulation in vMPFC activation in the ASD group possibly points to atypical default self-referential mental activity in ASD. Our results show that in ASD compensatory mechanisms are necessary in implicit, low-level inferential processes in spoken language understanding. This indicates that pragmatic language problems in ASD are not restricted to high-level inferential processes, but encompass the most basic aspects of pragmatic language processing.
  • Tesink, C. M. J. Y., Petersson, K. M., Van Berkum, J. J. A., Van den Brink, D., Buitelaar, J. K., & Hagoort, P. (2009). Unification of speaker and meaning in language comprehension: An fMRI study. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 21, 2085-2099. doi:10.1162/jocn.2008.21161.

    Abstract

    When interpreting a message, a listener takes into account several sources of linguistic and extralinguistic information. Here we focused on one particular form of extralinguistic information, certain speaker characteristics as conveyed by the voice. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we examined the neural structures involved in the unification of sentence meaning and voice-based inferences about the speaker's age, sex, or social background. We found enhanced activation in the inferior frontal gyrus bilaterally (BA 45/47) during listening to sentences whose meaning was incongruent with inferred speaker characteristics. Furthermore, our results showed an overlap in brain regions involved in unification of speaker-related information and those used for the unification of semantic and world knowledge information [inferior frontal gyrus bilaterally (BA 45/47) and left middle temporal gyrus (BA 21)]. These findings provide evidence for a shared neural unification system for linguistic and extralinguistic sources of information and extend the existing knowledge about the role of inferior frontal cortex as a crucial component for unification during language comprehension.
  • Van Berkum, J. J. A., Holleman, B., Nieuwland, M. S., Otten, M., & Murre, J. (2009). Right or wrong? The brain's fast response to morally objectionable statements. Psychological Science, 20, 1092 -1099. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02411.x.

    Abstract

    How does the brain respond to statements that clash with a person's value system? We recorded event-related brain potentials while respondents from contrasting political-ethical backgrounds completed an attitude survey on drugs, medical ethics, social conduct, and other issues. Our results show that value-based disagreement is unlocked by language extremely rapidly, within 200 to 250 ms after the first word that indicates a clash with the reader's value system (e.g., "I think euthanasia is an acceptable/unacceptable…"). Furthermore, strong disagreement rapidly influences the ongoing analysis of meaning, which indicates that even very early processes in language comprehension are sensitive to a person's value system. Our results testify to rapid reciprocal links between neural systems for language and for valuation.

    Additional information

    Critical survey statements (in Dutch)
  • Wang, L., Hagoort, P., & Yang, Y. (2009). Semantic illusion depends on information structure: ERP evidence. Brain Research, 1282, 50-56. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2009.05.069.

    Abstract

    Next to propositional content, speakers distribute information in their utterances in such a way that listeners can make a distinction between new (focused) and given (non-focused) information. This is referred to as information structure. We measured event-related potentials (ERPs) to explore the role of information structure in semantic processing. Following different questions in wh-question-answer pairs (e.g. What kind of vegetable did Ming buy for cooking today? /Who bought the vegetables for cooking today?), the answer sentences (e.g., Ming bought eggplant/beef to cook today.) contained a critical word, which was either semantically appropriate (eggplant) or inappropriate (beef), and either focus or non-focus. The results showed a full N400 effect only when the critical words were in focus position. In non-focus position a strongly reduced N400 effect was observed, in line with the well-known semantic illusion effect. The results suggest that information structure facilitates semantic processing by devoting more resources to focused information.
  • Willems, R. M., & Hagoort, P. (2009). Broca's region: Battles are not won by ignoring half of the facts. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 13(3), 101. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2008.12.001.
  • Willems, R. M., Toni, I., Hagoort, P., & Casasanto, D. (2009). Body-specific motor imagery of hand actions: Neural evidence from right- and left-handers. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 3: 39, pp. 39. doi:10.3389/neuro.09.039.2009.

    Abstract

    If motor imagery uses neural structures involved in action execution, then the neural correlates of imagining an action should differ between individuals who tend to execute the action differently. Here we report fMRI data showing that motor imagery is influenced by the way people habitually perform motor actions with their particular bodies; that is, motor imagery is ‘body-specific’ (Casasanto, 2009). During mental imagery for complex hand actions, activation of cortical areas involved in motor planning and execution was left-lateralized in right-handers but right-lateralized in left-handers. We conclude that motor imagery involves the generation of an action plan that is grounded in the participant’s motor habits, not just an abstract representation at the level of the action’s goal. People with different patterns of motor experience form correspondingly different neurocognitive representations of imagined actions.
  • Willems, R. M., Ozyurek, A., & Hagoort, P. (2009). Differential roles for left inferior frontal and superior temporal cortex in multimodal integration of action and language. Neuroimage, 47, 1992-2004. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.05.066.

    Abstract

    Several studies indicate that both posterior superior temporal sulcus/middle temporal gyrus (pSTS/MTG) and left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG) are involved in integrating information from different modalities. Here we investigated the respective roles of these two areas in integration of action and language information. We exploited the fact that the semantic relationship between language and different forms of action (i.e. co-speech gestures and pantomimes) is radically different. Speech and co-speech gestures are always produced together, and gestures are not unambiguously understood without speech. On the contrary, pantomimes are not necessarily produced together with speech and can be easily understood without speech. We presented speech together with these two types of communicative hand actions in matching or mismatching combinations to manipulate semantic integration load. Left and right pSTS/MTG were only involved in semantic integration of speech and pantomimes. Left IFG on the other hand was involved in integration of speech and co-speech gestures as well as of speech and pantomimes. Effective connectivity analyses showed that depending upon the semantic relationship between language and action, LIFG modulates activation levels in left pSTS. This suggests that integration in pSTS/MTG involves the matching of two input streams for which there is a relatively stable common object representation, whereas integration in LIFG is better characterized as the on-line construction of a new and unified representation of the input streams. In conclusion, pSTS/MTG and LIFG are differentially involved in multimodal integration, crucially depending upon the semantic relationship between the input streams.

    Additional information

    Supplementary table S1
  • Willems, R. M., & Hagoort, P. (2009). Hand preference influences neural correlates of action observation. Brain Research, 1269, 90-104. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2009.02.057.

    Abstract

    It has been argued that we map observed actions onto our own motor system. Here we added to this issue by investigating whether hand preference influences the neural correlates of action observation of simple, essentially meaningless hand actions. Such an influence would argue for an intricate neural coupling between action production and action observation, which goes beyond effects of motor repertoire or explicit motor training, as has been suggested before. Indeed, parts of the human motor system exhibited a close coupling between action production and action observation. Ventral premotor and inferior and superior parietal cortices showed differential activation for left- and right-handers that was similar during action production as well as during action observation. This suggests that mapping observed actions onto the observer's own motor system is a core feature of action observation - at least for actions that do not have a clear goal or meaning. Basic differences in the way we act upon the world are not only reflected in neural correlates of action production, but can also influence the brain basis of action observation.
  • Allen, S., Ozyurek, A., Kita, S., Brown, A., Furman, R., Ishizuka, T., & Fujii, M. (2007). Language-specific and universal influences in children's syntactic packaging of manner and path: A comparison of English, Japanese, and Turkish. Cognition, 102, 16-48. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2005.12.006.

    Abstract

    Different languages map semantic elements of spatial relations onto different lexical and syntactic units. These crosslinguistic differences raise important questions for language development in terms of how this variation is learned by children. We investigated how Turkish-, English-, and Japanese-speaking children (mean age 3;8) package the semantic elements of Manner and Path onto syntactic units when both the Manner and the Path of the moving Figure occur simultaneously and are salient in the event depicted. Both universal and language-specific patterns were evident in our data. Children used the semantic-syntactic mappings preferred by adult speakers of their own languages, and even expressed subtle syntactic differences that encode different relations between Manner and Path in the same way as their adult counterparts (i.e., Manner causing vs. incidental to Path). However, not all types of semantics-syntax mappings were easy for children to learn (e.g., expressing Manner and Path elements in two verbal clauses). In such cases, Turkish- and Japanese-speaking children frequently used syntactic patterns that were not typical in the target language but were similar to patterns used by English-speaking children, suggesting some universal influence. Thus, both language-specific and universal tendencies guide the development of complex spatial expressions.
  • Bramão, I., Mendonça, A., Faísca, L., Ingvar, M., Petersson, K. M., & Reis, A. (2007). The impact of reading and writing skills on a visuo-motor integration task: A comparison between illiterate and literate subjects. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 13(2), 359-364. doi:10.1017/S1355617707070440.

    Abstract

    Previous studies have shown a significant association between reading skills and the performance on visuo-motor tasks. In order to clarify whether reading and writing skills modulate non-linguistic domains, we investigated the performance of two literacy groups on a visuo-motor integration task with non-linguistic stimuli. Twenty-one illiterate participants and twenty matched literate controls were included in the experiment. Subjects were instructed to use the right or the left index finger to point to and touch a randomly presented target on the right or left side of a touch screen. The results showed that the literate subjects were significantly faster in detecting and touching targets on the left compared to the right side of the screen. In contrast, the presentation side did not affect the performance of the illiterate group. These results lend support to the idea that having acquired reading and writing skills, and thus a preferred left-to-right reading direction, influences visual scanning. (JINS, 2007, 13, 359–364
  • Furman, R., & Ozyurek, A. (2007). Development of interactional discourse markers: Insights from Turkish children's and adults' narratives. Journal of Pragmatics, 39(10), 1742-1757. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2007.01.008.

    Abstract

    Discourse markers (DMs) are linguistic elements that index different relations and coherence between units of talk (Schiffrin, Deborah, 1987. Discourse Markers. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge). Most research on the development of these forms has focused on conversations rather than narratives and furthermore has not directly compared children's use of DMs to adult usage. This study examines the development of three DMs (şey ‘uuhh’, yani ‘I mean’, işte ‘y’know’) that mark interactional levels of discourse in oral Turkish narratives in 60 Turkish children (3-, 5- and 9-year-olds) and 20 Turkish-speaking adults. The results show that the frequency and functions of DMs change with age. Children learn şey, which mainly marks exchange level structures, earliest. However, yani and işte have multi-functions such as marking both information states and participation frameworks and are consequently learned later. Children also use DMs with different functions than adults. Overall, the results show that learning to use interactional DMs in narratives is complex and goes beyond age 9, especially for multi-functional DMs that index an interplay of discourse coherence at different levels.
  • Gisselgard, J., Uddén, J., Ingvar, M., & Petersson, K. M. (2007). Disruption of order information by irrelevant items: A serial recognition paradigm. Acta Psychologica, 124(3), 356-369. doi:10.1016/j.actpsy.2006.04.002.

    Abstract

    Irrelevant speech effect (ISE) is defined as a decrement in visually presented digit-list short-term memory performance due to exposure to irrelevant auditory material. Perhaps the most successful theoretical explanation of the effect is the changing state hypothesis. This hypothesis explains the effect in terms of confusion between amodal serial order cues, and represents a view based on the interference caused by the processing of similar order information of the visual and auditory materials. An alternative view suggests that the interference occurs as a consequence of the similarity between the visual and auditory contents of the stimuli. An important argument for the former view is the observation that ISE is almost exclusively observed in tasks that require memory for serial order. However, most short-term memory tasks require that both item and order information be retained in memory. An ideal task to investigate the sensitivity of maintenance of serial order to irrelevant speech would be one that calls upon order information but not item information. One task that is particularly suited to address this issue is serial recognition. In a typical serial recognition task, a list of items is presented and then probed by the same list in which the order of two adjacent items has been transposed. Due to the re-presentation of the encoding string, serial recognition requires primarily the serial order to be maintained while the content of the presented items is deemphasized. In demonstrating a highly significant ISE of changing versus steady-state auditory items in a serial recognition task, the present finding lends support for and extends previous empirical findings suggesting that irrelevant speech has the potential to interfere with the coding of the order of the items to be memorized.
  • Hagoort, P., & Van Berkum, J. J. A. (2007). Beyond the sentence given. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. Series B: Biological Sciences, 362, 801-811.

    Abstract

    A central and influential idea among researchers of language is that our language faculty is organized according to Fregean compositionality, which states that the meaning of an utterance is a function of the meaning of its parts and of the syntactic rules by which these parts are combined. Since the domain of syntactic rules is the sentence, the implication of this idea is that language interpretation takes place in a two-step fashion. First, the meaning of a sentence is computed. In a second step, the sentence meaning is integrated with information from prior discourse, world knowledge, information about the speaker and semantic information from extra-linguistic domains such as co-speech gestures or the visual world. Here, we present results from recordings of event-related brain potentials that are inconsistent with this classical two-step model of language interpretation. Our data support a one-step model in which knowledge about the context and the world, concomitant information from other modalities, and the speaker are brought to bear immediately, by the same fast-acting brain system that combines the meanings of individual words into a message-level representation. Underlying the one-step model is the immediacy assumption, according to which all available information will immediately be used to co-determine the interpretation of the speaker's message. Functional magnetic resonance imaging data that we collected indicate that Broca's area plays an important role in semantic unification. Language comprehension involves the rapid incorporation of information in a 'single unification space', coming from a broader range of cognitive domains than presupposed in the standard two-step model of interpretation.
  • Hald, L. A., Steenbeek-Planting, E. G., & Hagoort, P. (2007). The interaction of discourse context and world knowledge in online sentence comprehension: Evidence from the N400. Brain Research, 1146, 210-218. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2007.02.054.

    Abstract

    In an ERP experiment we investigated how the recruitment and integration of world knowledge information relate to the integration of information within a current discourse context. Participants were presented with short discourse contexts which were followed by a sentence that contained a critical word that was correct or incorrect based on general world knowledge and the supporting discourse context, or was more or less acceptable based on the combination of general world knowledge and the specific local discourse context. Relative to the critical word in the correct world knowledge sentences following a neutral discourse, all other critical words elicited an N400 effect that began at about 300 ms after word onset. However, the magnitude of the N400 effect varied in a way that suggests an interaction between world knowledge and discourse context. The results indicate that both world knowledge and discourse context have an effect on sentence interpretation, but neither overrides the other.
  • Janzen, G., Wagensveld, B., & Van Turennout, M. (2007). Neural representation of navigational relevance is rapidly induced and long lasting. Cerebral Cortex, 17(4), 975-981. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhl008.

    Abstract

    Successful navigation is facilitated by the presence of landmarks. Previous functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) evidence indicated that the human parahippocampal gyrus automatically distinguishes between landmarks placed at navigationally relevant (decision points) and irrelevant locations (nondecision points). This storage of navigational relevance can provide a neural mechanism underlying successful navigation. However, an efficient wayfinding mechanism requires that important spatial information is learned quickly and maintained over time. The present study investigates whether the representation of navigational relevance is modulated by time and practice. Participants learned 2 film sequences through virtual mazes containing objects at decision and at nondecision points. One maze was shown one time, and the other maze was shown 3 times. Twenty-four hours after study, event-related fMRI data were acquired during recognition of the objects. The results showed that activity in the parahippocampal gyrus was increased for objects previously placed at decision points as compared with objects placed at nondecision points. The decision point effect was not modulated by the number of exposures to the mazes and independent of explicit memory functions. These findings suggest a persistent representation of navigationally relevant information, which is stable after only one exposure to an environment. These rapidly induced and long-lasting changes in object representation provide a basis for successful wayfinding.
  • Janzen, G., & Weststeijn, C. G. (2007). Neural representation of object location and route direction: An event-related fMRI study. Brain Research, 1165, 116-125. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2007.05.074.

    Abstract

    The human brain distinguishes between landmarks placed at navigationally relevant and irrelevant locations. However, to provide a successful wayfinding mechanism not only landmarks but also the routes between them need to be stored. We examined the neural representation of a memory for route direction and a memory for relevant landmarks. Healthy human adults viewed objects along a route through a virtual maze. Event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data were acquired during a subsequent subliminal priming recognition task. Prime-objects either preceded or succeeded a target-object on a preciously learned route. Our results provide evidence that the parahippocampal gyri distinguish between relevant and irrelevant landmarks whereas the inferior parietal gyrus, the anterior cingulate gyrus as well as the right caudate nucleus are involved in the coding of route direction. These data show that separated memory systems store different spatial information. A memory for navigationally relevant object information and a memory for route direction exist.
  • Kelly, S. D., & Ozyurek, A. (Eds.). (2007). Gesture, language, and brain [Special Issue]. Brain and Language, 101(3).
  • Kita, S., Ozyurek, A., Allen, S., Brown, A., Furman, R., & Ishizuka, T. (2007). Relations between syntactic encoding and co-speech gestures: Implications for a model of speech and gesture production. Language and Cognitive Processes, 22(8), 1212-1236. doi:10.1080/01690960701461426.

    Abstract

    Gestures that accompany speech are known to be tightly coupled with speech production. However little is known about the cognitive processes that underlie this link. Previous cross-linguistic research has provided preliminary evidence for online interaction between the two systems based on the systematic co-variation found between how different languages syntactically package Manner and Path information of a motion event and how gestures represent Manner and Path. Here we elaborate on this finding by testing whether speakers within the same language gesturally express Manner and Path differently according to their online choice of syntactic packaging of Manner and Path, or whether gestural expression is pre-determined by a habitual conceptual schema congruent with the linguistic typology. Typologically congruent and incongruent syntactic structures for expressing Manner and Path (i.e., in a single clause or multiple clauses) were elicited from English speakers. We found that gestural expressions were determined by the online choice of syntactic packaging rather than by a habitual conceptual schema. It is therefore concluded that speech and gesture production processes interface online at the conceptual planning phase. Implications of the findings for models of speech and gesture production are discussed
  • Marklund, P., Fransson, P., Cabeza, R., Petersson, K. M., Ingvar, M., & Nyberg, L. (2007). Sustained and transient neural modulations in prefrontal cortex related to declarative long-term memory, working memory, and attention. Cortex, 43(1), 22-37. doi:10.1016/S0010-9452(08)70443-X.

    Abstract

    Common activations in prefrontal cortex (PFC) during episodic and semantic long-term memory (LTM) tasks have been hypothesized to reflect functional overlap in terms of working memory (WM) and cognitive control. To evaluate a WM account of LTM-general activations, the present study took into consideration that cognitive task performance depends on the dynamic operation of multiple component processes, some of which are stimulus-synchronous and transient in nature; and some that are engaged throughout a task in a sustained fashion. PFC and WM may be implicated in both of these temporally independent components. To elucidate these possibilities we employed mixed blocked/event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) procedures to assess the extent to which sustained or transient activation patterns overlapped across tasks indexing episodic and semantic LTM, attention (ATT), and WM. Within PFC, ventrolateral and medial areas exhibited sustained activity across all tasks, whereas more anterior regions including right frontopolar cortex were commonly engaged in sustained processing during the three memory tasks. These findings do not support a WM account of sustained frontal responses during LTM tasks, but instead suggest that the pattern that was common to all tasks reflects general attentional set/vigilance, and that the shared WM-LTM pattern mediates control processes related to upholding task set. Transient responses during the three memory tasks were assessed relative to ATT to isolate item-specific mnemonic processes and were found to be largely distinct from sustained effects. Task-specific effects were observed for each memory task. In addition, a common item response for all memory tasks involved left dorsolateral PFC (DLPFC). The latter response might be seen as reflecting WM processes during LTM retrieval. Thus, our findings suggest that a WM account of shared PFC recruitment in LTM tasks holds for common transient item-related responses rather than sustained state-related responses that are better seen as reflecting more general attentional/control processes.
  • Menenti, L., & Burani, C. (2007). What causes the effect of age of acquisition in lexical processing? Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 60(5), 652-660. doi:10.1080/17470210601100126.

    Abstract

    Three hypotheses for effects of age of acquisition (AoA) in lexical processing are compared: the cumulative frequency hypothesis (frequency and AoA both influence the number of encounters with a word, which influences processing speed), the semantic hypothesis (early-acquired words are processed faster because they are more central in the semantic network), and the neural network model (early-acquired words are faster because they are acquired when a network has maximum plasticity). In a regression study of lexical decision (LD) and semantic categorization (SC) in Italian and Dutch, contrary to the cumulative frequency hypothesis, AoA coefficients were larger than frequency coefficients, and, contrary to the semantic hypothesis, the effect of AoA was not larger in SC than in LD. The neural network model was supported.
  • Nieuwland, M. S., Petersson, K. M., & Van Berkum, J. J. A. (2007). On sense and reference: Examining the functional neuroanatomy of referential processing. NeuroImage, 37(3), 993-1004. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2007.05.048.

    Abstract

    In an event-related fMRI study, we examined the cortical networks involved in establishing reference during language comprehension. We compared BOLD responses to sentences containing referentially ambiguous pronouns (e.g., “Ronald told Frank that he…”), referentially failing pronouns (e.g., “Rose told Emily that he…”) or coherent pronouns. Referential ambiguity selectively recruited medial prefrontal regions, suggesting that readers engaged in problem-solving to select a unique referent from the discourse model. Referential failure elicited activation increases in brain regions associated with morpho-syntactic processing, and, for those readers who took failing pronouns to refer to unmentioned entities, additional regions associated with elaborative inferencing were observed. The networks activated by these two referential problems did not overlap with the network activated by a standard semantic anomaly. Instead, we observed a double dissociation, in that the systems activated by semantic anomaly are deactivated by referential ambiguity, and vice versa. This inverse coupling may reflect the dynamic recruitment of semantic and episodic processing to resolve semantically or referentially problematic situations. More generally, our findings suggest that neurocognitive accounts of language comprehension need to address not just how we parse a sentence and combine individual word meanings, but also how we determine who's who and what's what during language comprehension.
  • Nieuwland, M. S., Otten, M., & Van Berkum, J. J. A. (2007). Who are you talking about? Tracking discourse-level referential processing with event-related brain potentials. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 19(2), 228-236. doi:10.1162/jocn.2007.19.2.228.

    Abstract

    In this event-related brain potentials (ERPs) study, we explored the possibility to selectively track referential ambiguity during spoken discourse comprehension. Earlier ERP research has shown that referentially ambiguous nouns (e.g., “the girl” in a two-girl context) elicit a frontal, sustained negative shift relative to unambiguous control words. In the current study, we examined whether this ERP effect reflects “deep” situation model ambiguity or “superficial” textbase ambiguity. We contrasted these different interpretations by investigating whether a discourse-level semantic manipulation that prevents referential ambiguity also averts the elicitation of a referentially induced ERP effect. We compared ERPs elicited by nouns that were referentially nonambiguous but were associated with two discourse entities (e.g., “the girl” with two girls introduced in the context, but one of which has died or left the scene), with referentially ambiguous and nonambiguous control words. Although temporally referentially ambiguous nouns elicited a frontal negative shift compared to control words, the “double bound” but referentially nonambiguous nouns did not. These results suggest that it is possible to selectively track referential ambiguity with ERPs at the level that is most relevant to discourse comprehension, the situation model.
  • Otten, M., Nieuwland, M. S., & Van Berkum, J. J. A. (2007). Great expectations: Specific lexical anticipation influences the processing of spoken language. BMC Neuroscience, 8: 89. doi:10.1186/1471-2202-8-89.

    Abstract

    Background Recently several studies have shown that people use contextual information to make predictions about the rest of the sentence or story as the text unfolds. Using event related potentials (ERPs) we tested whether these on-line predictions are based on a message-based representation of the discourse or on simple automatic activation by individual words. Subjects heard short stories that were highly constraining for one specific noun, or stories that were not specifically predictive but contained the same prime words as the predictive stories. To test whether listeners make specific predictions critical nouns were preceded by an adjective that was inflected according to, or in contrast with, the gender of the expected noun. Results When the message of the preceding discourse was predictive, adjectives with an unexpected gender-inflection evoked a negative deflection over right-frontal electrodes between 300 and 600 ms. This effect was not present in the prime control context, indicating that the prediction mismatch does not hinge on word-based priming but is based on the actual message of the discourse. Conclusions When listening to a constraining discourse people rapidly make very specific predictions about the remainder of the story, as the story unfolds. These predictions are not simply based on word-based automatic activation, but take into account the actual message of the discourse.
  • Otten, M., & Van Berkum, J. J. A. (2007). What makes a discourse constraining? Comparing the effects of discourse message and scenario fit on the discourse-dependent N400 effect. Brain Research, 1153, 166-177. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2007.03.058.

    Abstract

    A discourse context provides a reader with a great deal of information that can provide constraints for further language processing, at several different levels. In this experiment we used event-related potentials (ERPs) to explore whether discourse-generated contextual constraints are based on the precise message of the discourse or, more `loosely', on the scenario suggested by one or more content words in the text. Participants read constraining stories whose precise message rendered a particular word highly predictable ("The manager thought that the board of directors should assemble to discuss the issue. He planned a...[meeting]") as well as non-constraining control stories that were only biasing in virtue of the scenario suggested by some of the words ("The manager thought that the board of directors need not assemble to discuss the issue. He planned a..."). Coherent words that were inconsistent with the message-level expectation raised in a constraining discourse (e.g., "session" instead of "meeting") elicited a classic centroparietal N400 effect. However, when the same words were only inconsistent with the scenario loosely suggested by earlier words in the text, they elicited a different negativity around 400 ms, with a more anterior, left-lateralized maximum. The fact that the discourse-dependent N400 effect cannot be reduced to scenario-mediated priming reveals that it reflects the rapid use of precise message-level constraints in comprehension. At the same time, the left-lateralized negativity in non-constraining stories suggests that, at least in the absence of strong message-level constraints, scenario-mediated priming does also rapidly affect comprehension.
  • Ozyurek, A., & Kelly, S. D. (2007). Gesture, language, and brain. Brain and Language, 101(3), 181-185. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2007.03.006.
  • Ozyurek, A., Willems, R. M., Kita, S., & Hagoort, P. (2007). On-line integration of semantic information from speech and gesture: Insights from event-related brain potentials. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 19(4), 605-616. doi:10.1162/jocn.2007.19.4.605.

    Abstract

    During language comprehension, listeners use the global semantic representation from previous sentence or discourse context to immediately integrate the meaning of each upcoming word into the unfolding message-level representation. Here we investigate whether communicative gestures that often spontaneously co-occur with speech are processed in a similar fashion and integrated to previous sentence context in the same way as lexical meaning. Event-related potentials were measured while subjects listened to spoken sentences with a critical verb (e.g., knock), which was accompanied by an iconic co-speech gesture (i.e., KNOCK). Verbal and/or gestural semantic content matched or mismatched the content of the preceding part of the sentence. Despite the difference in the modality and in the specificity of meaning conveyed by spoken words and gestures, the latency, amplitude, and topographical distribution of both word and gesture mismatches are found to be similar, indicating that the brain integrates both types of information simultaneously. This provides evidence for the claim that neural processing in language comprehension involves the simultaneous incorporation of information coming from a broader domain of cognition than only verbal semantics. The neural evidence for similar integration of information from speech and gesture emphasizes the tight interconnection between speech and co-speech gestures.
  • Petersson, K. M., Silva, C., Castro-Caldas, A., Ingvar, M., & Reis, A. (2007). Literacy: A cultural influence on functional left-right differences in the inferior parietal cortex. European Journal of Neuroscience, 26(3), 791-799. doi:10.1111/j.1460-9568.2007.05701.x.

    Abstract

    The current understanding of hemispheric interaction is limited. Functional hemispheric specialization is likely to depend on both genetic and environmental factors. In the present study we investigated the importance of one factor, literacy, for the functional lateralization in the inferior parietal cortex in two independent samples of literate and illiterate subjects. The results show that the illiterate group are consistently more right-lateralized than their literate controls. In contrast, the two groups showed a similar degree of left-right differences in early speech-related regions of the superior temporal cortex. These results provide evidence suggesting that a cultural factor, literacy, influences the functional hemispheric balance in reading and verbal working memory-related regions. In a third sample, we investigated grey and white matter with voxel-based morphometry. The results showed differences between literacy groups in white matter intensities related to the mid-body region of the corpus callosum and the inferior parietal and parietotemporal regions (literate > illiterate). There were no corresponding differences in the grey matter. This suggests that the influence of literacy on brain structure related to reading and verbal working memory is affecting large-scale brain connectivity more than grey matter per se.
  • Qin, S., Piekema, C., Petersson, K. M., Han, B., Luo, J., & Fernández, G. (2007). Probing the transformation of discontinuous associations into episodic memory: An event-related fMRI study. NeuroImage, 38(1), 212-222. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2007.07.020.

    Abstract

    Using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging, we identified brain regions involved in storing associations of events discontinuous in time into long-term memory. Participants were scanned while memorizing item-triplets including simultaneous and discontinuous associations. Subsequent memory tests showed that participants remembered both types of associations equally well. First, by constructing the contrast between the subsequent memory effects for discontinuous associations and simultaneous associations, we identified the left posterior parahippocampal region, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the basal ganglia, posterior midline structures, and the middle temporal gyrus as being specifically involved in transforming discontinuous associations into episodic memory. Second, we replicated that the prefrontal cortex and the medial temporal lobe (MTL) especially the hippocampus are involved in associative memory formation in general. Our findings provide evidence for distinct neural operation(s) that supports the binding and storing discontinuous associations in memory. We suggest that top-down signals from the prefrontal cortex and MTL may trigger reactivation of internal representation in posterior midline structures of the first event, thus allowing it to be associated with the second event. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex together with basal ganglia may support this encoding operation by executive and binding processes within working memory, and the posterior parahippocampal region may play a role in binding and memory formation.
  • Reis, A., Faísca, L., Mendonça, S., Ingvar, M., & Petersson, K. M. (2007). Semantic interference on a phonological task in illiterate subjects. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 48(1), 69-74. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9450.2006.00544.x.

    Abstract

    Previous research suggests that learning an alphabetic written language influences aspects of the auditory-verbal language system. In this study, we examined whether literacy influences the notion of words as phonological units independent of lexical semantics in literate and illiterate subjects. Subjects had to decide which item in a word- or pseudoword pair was phonologically longest. By manipulating the relationship between referent size and phonological length in three word conditions (congruent, neutral, and incongruent) we could examine to what extent subjects focused on form rather than meaning of the stimulus material. Moreover, the pseudoword condition allowed us to examine global phonological awareness independent of lexical semantics. The results showed that literate performed significantly better than illiterate subjects in the neutral and incongruent word conditions as well as in the pseudoword condition. The illiterate group performed least well in the incongruent condition and significantly better in the pseudoword condition compared to the neutral and incongruent word conditions and suggest that performance on phonological word length comparisons is dependent on literacy. In addition, the results show that the illiterate participants are able to perceive and process phonological length, albeit less well than the literate subjects, when no semantic interference is present. In conclusion, the present results confirm and extend the finding that illiterate subjects are biased towards semantic-conceptual-pragmatic types of cognitive processing.
  • Snijders, T. M., Kooijman, V., Cutler, A., & Hagoort, P. (2007). Neurophysiological evidence of delayed segmentation in a foreign language. Brain Research, 1178, 106-113. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2007.07.080.

    Abstract

    Previous studies have shown that segmentation skills are language-specific, making it difficult to segment continuous speech in an unfamiliar language into its component words. Here we present the first study capturing the delay in segmentation and recognition in the foreign listener using ERPs. We compared the ability of Dutch adults and of English adults without knowledge of Dutch (‘foreign listeners’) to segment familiarized words from continuous Dutch speech. We used the known effect of repetition on the event-related potential (ERP) as an index of recognition of words in continuous speech. Our results show that word repetitions in isolation are recognized with equivalent facility by native and foreign listeners, but word repetitions in continuous speech are not. First, words familiarized in isolation are recognized faster by native than by foreign listeners when they are repeated in continuous speech. Second, when words that have previously been heard only in a continuous-speech context re-occur in continuous speech, the repetition is detected by native listeners, but is not detected by foreign listeners. A preceding speech context facilitates word recognition for native listeners, but delays or even inhibits word recognition for foreign listeners. We propose that the apparent difference in segmentation rate between native and foreign listeners is grounded in the difference in language-specific skills available to the listeners.
  • Takashima, A., Nieuwenhuis, I. L. C., Rijpkema, M., Petersson, K. M., Jensen, O., & Fernández, G. (2007). Memory trace stabilization leads to large-scale changes in the retrieval network: A functional MRI study on associative memory. Learning & Memory, 14, 472-479. doi:10.1101/lm.605607.

    Abstract

    Spaced learning with time to consolidate leads to more stabile memory traces. However, little is known about the neural correlates of trace stabilization, especially in humans. The present fMRI study contrasted retrieval activity of two well-learned sets of face-location associations, one learned in a massed style and tested on the day of learning (i.e., labile condition) and another learned in a spaced scheme over the course of one week (i.e., stabilized condition). Both sets of associations were retrieved equally well, but the retrieval of stabilized association was faster and accompanied by large-scale changes in the network supporting retrieval. Cued recall of stabilized as compared with labile associations was accompanied by increased activity in the precuneus, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, the bilateral temporal pole, and left temporo–parietal junction. Conversely, memory representational areas such as the fusiform gyrus for faces and the posterior parietal cortex for locations did not change their activity with stabilization. The changes in activation in the precuneus, which also showed increased connectivity with the fusiform area, are likely to be related to the spatial nature of our task. The activation increase in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, on the other hand, might reflect a general function in stabilized memory retrieval. This area might succeed the hippocampus in linking distributed neocortical representations.
  • Tendolkar, I., Arnold, J., Petersson, K. M., Weis, S., Brockhaus-Dumke, A., Van Eijndhoven, P., Buitelaar, J., & Fernández, G. (2007). Probing the neural correlates of associative memory formation: A parametrically analyzed event-related functional MRI study. Brain Research, 1142, 159-168. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2007.01.040.

    Abstract

    The medial temporal lobe (MTL) is crucial for declarative memory formation, but the function of its subcomponents in associative memory formation remains controversial. Most functional imaging studies on this topic are based on a stepwise approach comparing a condition with and one without associative encoding. Extending this approach we applied additionally a parametric analysis by varying the amount of associative memory formation. We found a hippocampal subsequent memory effect of almost similar magnitude regardless of the amount of associations formed. By contrast, subsequent memory effects in rhinal and parahippocampal cortices were parametrically and positively modulated by the amount of associations formed. Our results indicate that the parahippocampal region supports associative memory formation as tested here and the hippocampus adds a general mnemonic operation. This pattern of results might suggest a new interpretation. Instead of having either a fixed division of labor between the hippocampus (associative memory formation) and the rhinal cortex (non-associative memory formation) or a functionally unitary MTL system, in which all substructures are contributing to memory formation in a similar way, we propose that the location where associations are formed within the MTL depends on the kind of associations bound: If visual single-dimension associations, as used here, can already be integrated within the parahippocampal region, the hippocampus might add a general purpose mnemonic operation only. In contrast, if associations have to be formed across widely distributed neocortical representations, the hippocampus may provide a binding operation in order to establish a coherent memory.
  • Van Berkum, J. J. A., Koornneef, A. W., Otten, M., & Nieuwland, M. S. (2007). Establishing reference in language comprehension: An electrophysiological perspective. Brain Research, 1146, 158-171. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2006.06.091.

    Abstract

    The electrophysiology of language comprehension has long been dominated by research on syntactic and semantic integration. However, to understand expressions like "he did it" or "the little girl", combining word meanings in accordance with semantic and syntactic constraints is not enough--readers and listeners also need to work out what or who is being referred to. We review our event-related brain potential research on the processes involved in establishing reference, and present a new experiment in which we examine when and how the implicit causality associated with specific interpersonal verbs affects the interpretation of a referentially ambiguous pronoun. The evidence suggests that upon encountering a singular noun or pronoun, readers and listeners immediately inspect their situation model for a suitable discourse entity, such that they can discriminate between having too many, too few, or exactly the right number of referents within at most half a second. Furthermore, our implicit causality findings indicate that a fragment like "David praised Linda because..." can immediately foreground a particular referent, to the extent that a subsequent "he" is at least initially construed as a syntactic error. In all, our brain potential findings suggest that referential processing is highly incremental, and not necessarily contingent upon the syntax. In addition, they demonstrate that we can use ERPs to relatively selectively keep track of how readers and listeners establish reference.
  • Wassenaar, M., & Hagoort, P. (2007). Thematic role assignment in patients with Broca's aphasia: Sentence-picture matching electrified. Neuropsychologia, 45(4), 716-740. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2006.08.016.

    Abstract

    An event-related brain potential experiment was carried out to investigate on-line thematic role assignment during sentence–picture matching in patients with Broca's aphasia. Subjects were presented with a picture that was followed by an auditory sentence. The sentence either matched the picture or mismatched the visual information depicted. Sentences differed in complexity, and ranged from simple active semantically irreversible sentences to passive semantically reversible sentences. ERPs were recorded while subjects were engaged in sentence–picture matching. In addition, reaction time and accuracy were measured. Three groups of subjects were tested: Broca patients (N = 10), non-aphasic patients with a right hemisphere (RH) lesion (N = 8), and healthy aged-matched controls (N = 15). The results of this study showed that, in neurologically unimpaired individuals, thematic role assignment in the context of visual information was an immediate process. This in contrast to patients with Broca's aphasia who demonstrated no signs of on-line sensitivity to the picture–sentence mismatches. The syntactic contribution to the thematic role assignment process seemed to be diminished given the reduction and even absence of P600 effects. Nevertheless, Broca patients showed some off-line behavioral sensitivity to the sentence–picture mismatches. The long response latencies of Broca's aphasics make it likely that off-line response strategies were used.
  • Willems, R. M., & Hagoort, P. (2007). Neural evidence for the interplay between language, gesture, and action: A review. Brain and Language, 101(3), 278-289. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2007.03.004.

    Abstract

    Co-speech gestures embody a form of manual action that is tightly coupled to the language system. As such, the co-occurrence of speech and co-speech gestures is an excellent example of the interplay between language and action. There are, however, other ways in which language and action can be thought of as closely related. In this paper we will give an overview of studies in cognitive neuroscience that examine the neural underpinnings of links between language and action. Topics include neurocognitive studies of motor representations of speech sounds, action-related language, sign language and co-speech gestures. It will be concluded that there is strong evidence on the interaction between speech and gestures in the brain. This interaction however shares general properties with other domains in which there is interplay between language and action.
  • Willems, R. M., Ozyurek, A., & Hagoort, P. (2007). When language meets action: The neural integration of gesture and speech. Cerebral Cortex, 17(10), 2322-2333. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhl141.

    Abstract

    Although generally studied in isolation, language and action often co-occur in everyday life. Here we investigated one particular form of simultaneous language and action, namely speech and gestures that speakers use in everyday communication. In a functional magnetic resonance imaging study, we identified the neural networks involved in the integration of semantic information from speech and gestures. Verbal and/or gestural content could be integrated easily or less easily with the content of the preceding part of speech. Premotor areas involved in action observation (Brodmann area [BA] 6) were found to be specifically modulated by action information "mismatching" to a language context. Importantly, an increase in integration load of both verbal and gestural information into prior speech context activated Broca's area and adjacent cortex (BA 45/47). A classical language area, Broca's area, is not only recruited for language-internal processing but also when action observation is integrated with speech. These findings provide direct evidence that action and language processing share a high-level neural integration system.

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