Publications

Displaying 1 - 100 of 106
  • Acheson, D. J., Hamidi, M., Binder, J. R., & Postle, B. R. (2011). A common neural substrate for language production and verbal working memory. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 23(6), 1358-1367. doi:10.1162/jocn.2010.21519.

    Abstract

    Verbal working memory (VWM), the ability to maintain and manipulate representations of speech sounds over short periods, is held by some influential models to be independent from the systems responsible for language production and comprehension [e.g., Baddeley, A. D. Working memory, thought, and action. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2007]. We explore the alternative hypothesis that maintenance in VWM is subserved by temporary activation of the language production system [Acheson, D. J., & MacDonald, M. C. Verbal working memory and language production: Common approaches to the serial ordering of verbal information. Psychological Bulletin, 135, 50–68, 2009b]. Specifically, we hypothesized that for stimuli lacking a semantic representation (e.g., nonwords such as mun), maintenance in VWM can be achieved by cycling information back and forth between the stages of phonological encoding and articulatory planning. First, fMRI was used to identify regions associated with two different stages of language production planning: the posterior superior temporal gyrus (pSTG) for phonological encoding (critical for VWM of nonwords) and the middle temporal gyrus (MTG) for lexical–semantic retrieval (not critical for VWM of nonwords). Next, in the same subjects, these regions were targeted with repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) during language production and VWM task performance. Results showed that rTMS to the pSTG, but not the MTG, increased error rates on paced reading (a language production task) and on delayed serial recall of nonwords (a test of VWM). Performance on a lexical–semantic retrieval task (picture naming), in contrast, was significantly sensitive to rTMS of the MTG. Because rTMS was guided by language production-related activity, these results provide the first causal evidence that maintenance in VWM directly depends on the long-term representations and processes used in speech production.
  • Acheson, D. J., Postle, B. R., & MacDonald, M. C. (2011). The effect of concurrent semantic categorization on delayed serial recall. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 37, 44-59. doi:10.1037/a0021205.

    Abstract

    The influence of semantic processing on the serial ordering of items in short-term memory was explored using a novel dual-task paradigm. Participants engaged in 2 picture-judgment tasks while simultaneously performing delayed serial recall. List material varied in the presence of phonological overlap (Experiments 1 and 2) and in semantic content (concrete words in Experiment 1 and 3; nonwords in Experiments 2 and 3). Picture judgments varied in the extent to which they required accessing visual semantic information (i.e., semantic categorization and line orientation judgments). Results showed that, relative to line-orientation judgments, engaging in semantic categorization judgments increased the proportion of item-ordering errors for concrete lists but did not affect error proportions for nonword lists. Furthermore, although more ordering errors were observed for phonologically similar relative to dissimilar lists, no interactions were observed between the phonological overlap and picture-judgment task manipulations. These results demonstrate that lexical-semantic representations can affect the serial ordering of items in short-term memory. Furthermore, the dual-task paradigm provides a new method for examining when and how semantic representations affect memory performance.
  • Acheson, D. J., & MacDonald, M. C. (2011). The rhymes that the reader perused confused the meaning: Phonological effects during on-line sentence comprehension. Journal of Memory and Language, 65, 193-207. doi:10.1016/j.jml.2011.04.006.

    Abstract

    Research on written language comprehension has generally assumed that the phonological properties of a word have little effect on sentence comprehension beyond the processes of word recognition. Two experiments investigated this assumption. Participants silently read relative clauses in which two pairs of words either did or did not have a high degree of phonological overlap. Participants were slower reading and less accurate comprehending the overlap sentences compared to the non-overlapping controls, even though sentences were matched for plausibility and differed by only two words across overlap conditions. A comparison across experiments showed that the overlap effects were larger in the more difficult object relative than in subject relative sentences. The reading patterns showed that phonological representations affect not only memory for recently encountered sentences but also the developing sentence interpretation during on-line processing. Implications for theories of sentence processing and memory are discussed. Highlights The work investigates the role of phonological information in sentence comprehension, which is poorly understood. ► Subjects read object and subject relative clauses +/- phonological overlap in two pairs of words. ► Unique features of the study were online reading measures and pinpointed overlap locations. ► Phonological overlap slowed reading speed and impaired sentence comprehension, especially for object relatives. ► The results show a key role for phonological information during online comprehension, not just later sentence memory.
  • Araújo, S., Inácio, F., Francisco, A., Faísca, L., Petersson, K. M., & Reis, A. (2011). Component processes subserving rapid automatized naming in dyslexic and non-dyslexic readers. Dyslexia, 17, 242-255. doi:10.1002/dys.433.

    Abstract

    The current study investigated which time components of rapid automatized naming (RAN) predict group differences between dyslexic and non-dyslexic readers (matched for age and reading level), and how these components relate to different reading measures. Subjects performed two RAN tasks (letters and objects), and data were analyzed through a response time analysis. Our results demonstrated that impaired RAN performance in dyslexic readers mainly stem from enhanced inter-item pause times and not from difficulties at the level of post-access motor production (expressed as articulation rates). Moreover, inter-item pause times account for a significant proportion of variance in reading ability in addition to the effect of phonological awareness in the dyslexic group. This suggests that non-phonological factors may lie at the root of the association between RAN inter-item pauses and reading ability. In normal readers, RAN performance was associated with reading ability only at early ages (i.e. in the reading-matched controls), and again it was the RAN inter-item pause times that explain the association.
  • Araújo, S., Faísca, L., Bramão, I., Inácio, F., Petersson, K. M., & Reis, A. (2011). Object naming in dyslexic children: More than a phonological deficit. The Journal of General Psychology, 138, 215-228. doi:10.1080/00221309.2011.582525.

    Abstract

    In the present study, the authors investigate how some visual factors related to early stages of visual-object naming modulate naming performance in dyslexia. The performance of dyslexic children was compared with 2 control groups—normal readers matched for age and normal readers matched for reading level—while performing a discrete naming task in which color and dimensionality of the visually presented objects were manipulated. The results showed that 2-dimensional naming performance improved for color representations in control readers but not in dyslexics. In contrast to control readers, dyslexics were also insensitive to the stimulus's dimensionality. These findings are unlikely to be explained by a phonological processing problem related to phonological access or retrieval but suggest that dyslexics have a lower capacity for coding and decoding visual surface features of 2-dimensional representations or problems with the integration of visual information stored in long-term memory.
  • Araújo, S., Faísca, L., Petersson, K. M., & Reis, A. (2011). What does rapid naming tell us about dyslexia? Avances en Psicología Latinoamericana, 29, 199-213.

    Abstract

    This article summarizes some of the important findings from research evaluating the relationship between poor rapid naming and impaired reading performance. Substantial evidence shows that dyslexic readers have problems with rapid naming of visual items. Early research assumed that this was a consequence of phonological processing deficits, but recent findings suggest that non-phonological processes may lie at the root of the association between slow naming speed and poor reading. The hypothesis that rapid naming reflects an independent core deficit in dyslexia is supported by the main findings: (1) some dyslexics are characterized by rapid naming difficulties but intact phonological skills; (2) evidence for an independent association between rapid naming and reading competence in the dyslexic readers, when the effect of phonological skills was controlled; (3) rapid naming and phonological processing measures are not reliably correlated. Recent research also reveals greater predictive power of rapid naming, in particular the inter-item pause time, for high-frequency word reading compared to pseudoword reading in developmental dyslexia. Altogether, the results are more consistent with the view that a phonological component alone cannot account for the rapid naming performance in dyslexia. Rather, rapid naming problems may emerge from the inefficiencies in visual-orthographic processing as well as in phonological processing.
  • Baggio, G., & Hagoort, P. (2011). The balance between memory and unification in semantics: A dynamic account of the N400. Language and Cognitive Processes, 26, 1338-1367. doi:10.1080/01690965.2010.542671.

    Abstract

    At least three cognitive brain components are necessary in order for us to be able to produce and comprehend language: a Memory repository for the lexicon, a Unification buffer where lexical information is combined into novel structures, and a Control apparatus presiding over executive function in language. Here we describe the brain networks that support Memory and Unification in semantics. A dynamic account of their interactions is presented, in which a balance between the two components is sought at each word-processing step. We use the theory to provide an explanation of the N400 effect.
  • Bramão, I., Inácio, F., Faísca, L., Reis, A., & Petersson, K. M. (2011). The influence of color information on the recognition of color diagnostic and noncolor diagnostic objects. The Journal of General Psychology, 138(1), 49-65. doi:10.1080/00221309.2010.533718.

    Abstract

    In the present study, the authors explore in detail the level of visual object recognition at which perceptual color information improves the recognition of color diagnostic and noncolor diagnostic objects. To address this issue, 3 object recognition tasks, with different cognitive demands, were designed: (a) an object verification task; (b) a category verification task; and (c) a name verification task. They found that perceptual color information improved color diagnostic object recognition mainly in tasks for which access to the semantic knowledge about the object was necessary to perform the task; that is, in category and name verification. In contrast, the authors found that perceptual color information facilitates noncolor diagnostic object recognition when access to the object’s structural description from long-term memory was necessary—that is, object verification. In summary, the present study shows that the role of perceptual color information in object recognition is dependent on color diagnosticity
  • Bramão, B., Reis, A., Petersson, K. M., & Faísca, L. (2011). The role of color in object recognition: A review and meta-analysis. Acta Psychologica, 138, 244-253. doi:10.1016/j.actpsy.2011.06.010.

    Abstract

    In this study, we systematically review the scientific literature on the effect of color on object recognition. Thirty-five independent experiments, comprising 1535 participants, were included in a meta-analysis. We found a moderate effect of color on object recognition (d = 0.28). Specific effects of moderator variables were analyzed and we found that color diagnosticity is the factor with the greatest moderator effect on the influence of color in object recognition; studies using color diagnostic objects showed a significant color effect (d = 0.43), whereas a marginal color effect was found in studies that used non-color diagnostic objects (d = 0.18). The present study did not permit the drawing of specific conclusions about the moderator effect of the object recognition task; while the meta-analytic review showed that color information improves object recognition mainly in studies using naming tasks (d = 0.36), the literature review revealed a large body of evidence showing positive effects of color information on object recognition in studies using a large variety of visual recognition tasks. We also found that color is important for the ability to recognize artifacts and natural objects, to recognize objects presented as types (line-drawings) or as tokens (photographs), and to recognize objects that are presented without surface details, such as texture or shadow. Taken together, the results of the meta-analysis strongly support the contention that color plays a role in object recognition. This suggests that the role of color should be taken into account in models of visual object recognition.

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  • Casasanto, D. (2011). Different bodies, different minds: The body-specificity of language and thought. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 20, 378-383. doi:10.1177/0963721411422058.

    Abstract

    Do people with different kinds of bodies think differently? According to the bodyspecificity hypothesis (Casasanto 2009), they should. In this article, I review evidence that right- and left-handers, who perform actions in systematically different ways, use correspondingly different areas of the brain for imagining actions and representing the meanings of action verbs. Beyond concrete actions, the way people use their hands also influences the way they represent abstract ideas with positive and negative emotional valence like “goodness,” “honesty,” and “intelligence,” and how they communicate about them in spontaneous speech and gesture. Changing how people use their right and left hands can cause them to think differently, suggesting that motoric differences between right- and left-handers are not merely correlated with cognitive differences. Body-specific patterns of motor experience shape the way we think, communicate, and make decisions
  • Casasanto, D., & Chrysikou, E. G. (2011). When left is "Right": Motor fluency shapes abstract concepts. Psychological Science, 22, 419-422. doi:10.1177/0956797611401755.

    Abstract

    Right- and left-handers implicitly associate positive ideas like "goodness"and "honesty"more strongly with their dominant side of space, the side on which they can act more fluently, and negative ideas more strongly with their nondominant side. Here we show that right-handers’ tendency to associate "good" with "right" and "bad" with "left" can be reversed as a result of both long- and short-term changes in motor fluency. Among patients who were right-handed prior to unilateral stroke, those with disabled left hands associated "good" with "right," but those with disabled right hands associated "good" with "left,"as natural left-handers do. A similar pattern was found in healthy right-handers whose right or left hand was temporarily handicapped in the laboratory. Even a few minutes of acting more fluently with the left hand can change right-handers’ implicit associations between space and emotional valence, causing a reversal of their usual judgments. Motor experience plays a causal role in shaping abstract thought.
  • Cleary, R. A., Poliakoff, E., Galpin, A., Dick, J. P., & Holler, J. (2011). An investigation of co-speech gesture production during action description in Parkinson’s disease. Parkinsonism & Related Disorders, 17, 753-756. doi:10.1016/j.parkreldis.2011.08.001.

    Abstract

    Methods The present study provides a systematic analysis of co-speech gestures which spontaneously accompany the description of actions in a group of PD patients (N = 23, Hoehn and Yahr Stage III or less) and age-matched healthy controls (N = 22). The analysis considers different co-speech gesture types, using established classification schemes from the field of gesture research. The analysis focuses on the rate of these gestures as well as on their qualitative nature. In doing so, the analysis attempts to overcome several methodological shortcomings of research in this area. Results Contrary to expectation, gesture rate was not significantly affected in our patient group, with relatively mild PD. This indicates that co-speech gestures could compensate for speech problems. However, while gesture rate seems unaffected, the qualitative precision of gestures representing actions was significantly reduced. Conclusions This study demonstrates the feasibility of carrying out fine-grained, detailed analyses of gestures in PD and offers insights into an as yet neglected facet of communication in patients with PD. Based on the present findings, an important next step is the closer investigation of the qualitative changes in gesture (including different communicative situations) and an analysis of the heterogeneity in co-speech gesture production in PD.
  • Davids, N., Segers, E., Van den Brink, D., Mitterer, H., van Balkom, H., Hagoort, P., & Verhoeven, L. (2011). The nature of auditory discrimination problems in children with specific language impairment: An MMN study. Neuropsychologia, 49, 19-28. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.11.001.

    Abstract

    Many children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI) show impairments in discriminating auditorily presented stimuli. The present study investigates whether these discrimination problems are speech specific or of a general auditory nature. This was studied by using a linguistic and nonlinguistic contrast that were matched for acoustic complexity in an active behavioral task and a passive ERP paradigm, known to elicit the mismatch negativity (MMN). In addition, attention skills and a variety of language skills were measured. Participants were 25 five-year-old Dutch children with SLI having receptive as well as productive language problems and 25 control children with typical speechand language development. At the behavioral level, the SLI group was impaired in discriminating the linguistic contrast as compared to the control group, while both groups were unable to distinguish the non-linguistic contrast. Moreover, the SLI group tended to have impaired attention skills which correlated with performance on most of the language tests. At the neural level, the SLI group, in contrast to the control group, did not show an MMN in response to either the linguistic or nonlinguistic contrast. The MMN data are consistent with an account that relates the symptoms in children with SLI to non-speech processing difficulties.
  • Dediu, D. (2011). A Bayesian phylogenetic approach to estimating the stability of linguistic features and the genetic biasing of tone. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London/B, 278(1704), 474-479. doi:10.1098/rspb.2010.1595.

    Abstract

    Language is a hallmark of our species and understanding linguistic diversity is an area of major interest. Genetic factors influencing the cultural transmission of language provide a powerful and elegant explanation for aspects of the present day linguistic diversity and a window into the emergence and evolution of language. In particular, it has recently been proposed that linguistic tone—the usage of voice pitch to convey lexical and grammatical meaning—is biased by two genes involved in brain growth and development, ASPM and Microcephalin. This hypothesis predicts that tone is a stable characteristic of language because of its ‘genetic anchoring’. The present paper tests this prediction using a Bayesian phylogenetic framework applied to a large set of linguistic features and language families, using multiple software implementations, data codings, stability estimations, linguistic classifications and outgroup choices. The results of these different methods and datasets show a large agreement, suggesting that this approach produces reliable estimates of the stability of linguistic data. Moreover, linguistic tone is found to be stable across methods and datasets, providing suggestive support for the hypothesis of genetic influences on its distribution.
  • Dufau, S., Duñabeitia, J. A., Moret-Tatay, C., McGonigal, A., Peeters, D., Alario, F.-X., Balota, D. A., Brysbaert, M., Carreiras, M., Ferrand, L., Ktori, M., Perea, M., Rastle, K., Sasburg, O., Yap, M. J., Ziegler, J. C., & Grainger, J. (2011). Smart phone, smart science: How the use of smartphones can revolutionize research in cognitive science. PLoS One, 6(9), e24974. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0024974.

    Abstract

    Investigating human cognitive faculties such as language, attention, and memory most often relies on testing small and homogeneous groups of volunteers coming to research facilities where they are asked to participate in behavioral experiments. We show that this limitation and sampling bias can be overcome by using smartphone technology to collect data in cognitive science experiments from thousands of subjects from all over the world. This mass coordinated use of smartphones creates a novel and powerful scientific ‘‘instrument’’ that yields the data necessary to test universal theories of cognition. This increase in power represents a potential revolution in cognitive science
  • Flecken, M. (2011). Assessing bilingual attainment: macrostructural planning in narratives. International Journal of Bilingualism, 15(2), 164-186. doi:10.1177/1367006910381187.

    Abstract

    The present study addresses questions concerning bilinguals’ attainment in the two languages by investigating the extent to which early bilinguals manage to apply the information structure required in each language when producing a complex text. In re-narrating the content of a film, speakers have to break down the perceived series of dynamic situations and structure relevant information into units that are suited for linguistic expression. The analysis builds on typological studies of Germanic and Romance languages which investigate the role of grammaticized concepts in determining core features in information structure. It takes a global perspective in that it focuses on factors that determine information selection and information structure that hold in macrostructural terms for the text as a whole (factors driving information selection, the temporal frame used to locate events on the time line, and the means used in reference management). A first comparison focuses on Dutch and German monolingual native speakers and shows that despite overall typological similarities, there are subtle though systematic differences between the two languages in the aforementioned areas of information structure. The analyses of the bilinguals focus on their narratives in both languages, and compares the patterns found to those found in the monolingual narratives. Findings show that the method used provides insights into the individual bilingual’s attainment in the two languages and identifies either balanced levels of attainment, patterns showing higher degrees of conformity with one of the languages, as well as bilingual-specific patterns of performance.
  • Flecken, M. (2011). What native speaker judgments tell us about the grammaticalization of a progressive aspectual marker in Dutch. Linguistics, 49(3), 479-524. doi:10.1515/LING.2011.015.

    Abstract

    This paper focuses on native speaker judgments of a construction in Dutch that functions as a progressive aspectual marker (aan het X zijn, referred to as aan het-construction) and represents an event as in progression at the time of speech. The method was chosen in order to investigate how native speakers assess the scope and conditions of use of a construction which is in the process of grammaticalization. It allows for the inclusion of a large group of participants of different age groups and an investigation of potential age-related differences. The study systematically covers a range of temporal variables that were shown to be relevant in elicitation and corpus-based studies on the grammaticalization of progressive aspect constructions. The results provide insights into the selectional preferences and constraints of the aan het-construction in contemporary Dutch, as judged by native speakers, and the extent to which they correlate with production tasks.
  • Folia, V., Forkstam, C., Ingvar, M., Hagoort, P., & Petersson, K. M. (2011). Implicit artificial syntax processing: Genes, preference, and bounded recursion. Biolinguistics, 5(1/2), 105-132.

    Abstract

    The first objective of this study was to compare the brain network engaged by preference classification and the standard grammaticality classification after implicit artificial syntax acquisition by re-analyzing previously reported event-related fMRI data. The results show that preference and grammaticality classification engage virtually identical brain networks, including Broca’s region, consistent with previous behavioral findings. Moreover, the results showed that the effects related to artificial syntax in Broca’s region were essentially the same when masked with variability related to natural syntax processing in the same participants. The second objective was to explore CNTNAP2-related effects in implicit artificial syntax learning by analyzing behavioral and event-related fMRI data from a subsample. The CNTNAP2 gene has been linked to specific language impairment and is controlled by the FOXP2 transcription factor. CNTNAP2 is expressed in language related brain networks in the developing human brain and the FOXP2–CNTNAP2 pathway provides a mechanistic link between clinically distinct syndromes involving disrupted language. Finally, we discuss the implication of taking natural language to be a neurobiological system in terms of bounded recursion and suggest that the left inferior frontal region is a generic on-line sequence processor that unifies information from various sources in an incremental and recursive manner.
  • Habets, B., Kita, S., Shao, Z., Ozyurek, A., & Hagoort, P. (2011). The role of synchrony and ambiguity in speech–gesture integration during comprehension. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 23, 1845-1854. doi:10.1162/jocn.2010.21462.

    Abstract

    During face-to-face communication, one does not only hear speech but also see a speaker's communicative hand movements. It has been shown that such hand gestures play an important role in communication where the two modalities influence each other's interpretation. A gesture typically temporally overlaps with coexpressive speech, but the gesture is often initiated before (but not after) the coexpressive speech. The present ERP study investigated what degree of asynchrony in the speech and gesture onsets are optimal for semantic integration of the concurrent gesture and speech. Videos of a person gesturing were combined with speech segments that were either semantically congruent or incongruent with the gesture. Although gesture and speech always overlapped in time, gesture and speech were presented with three different degrees of asynchrony. In the SOA 0 condition, the gesture onset and the speech onset were simultaneous. In the SOA 160 and 360 conditions, speech was delayed by 160 and 360 msec, respectively. ERPs time locked to speech onset showed a significant difference between semantically congruent versus incongruent gesture–speech combinations on the N400 for the SOA 0 and 160 conditions. No significant difference was found for the SOA 360 condition. These results imply that speech and gesture are integrated most efficiently when the differences in onsets do not exceed a certain time span because of the fact that iconic gestures need speech to be disambiguated in a way relevant to the speech context.
  • Haun, D. B. M., Rapold, C. J., Janzen, G., & Levinson, S. C. (2011). Plasticity of human spatial memory: Spatial language and cognition covary across cultures. Cognition, 119, 70-80. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2010.12.009.

    Abstract

    The present paper explores cross-cultural variation in spatial cognition by comparing spatial reconstruction tasks by Dutch and Namibian elementary school children. These two communities differ in the way they predominantly express spatial relations in language. Four experiments investigate cognitive strategy preferences across different levels of task-complexity and instruction. Data show a correlation between dominant linguistic spatial frames of reference and performance patterns in non-linguistic spatial memory tasks. This correlation is shown to be stable across an increase of complexity in the spatial array. When instructed to use their respective non-habitual cognitive strategy, participants were not easily able to switch between strategies and their attempts to do so impaired their performance. These results indicate a difference not only in preference but also in competence and suggest that spatial language and non-linguistic preferences and competences in spatial cognition are systematically aligned across human populations.

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  • Holler, J., & Wilkin, K. (2011). An experimental investigation of how addressee feedback affects co-speech gestures accompanying speakers’ responses. Journal of Pragmatics, 43, 3522-3536. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2011.08.002.

    Abstract

    There is evidence that co-speech gestures communicate information to addressees and that they are often communicatively intended. However, we still know comparatively little about the role of gestures in the actual process of communication. The present study offers a systematic investigation of speakers’ gesture use before and after addressee feedback. The findings show that when speakers responded to addressees’ feedback gesture rate remained constant when this feedback encouraged clarification, elaboration or correction. However, speakers gestured proportionally less often after feedback when providing confirmatory responses. That is, speakers may not be drawing on gesture in response to addressee feedback per se, but particularly with responses that enhance addressees’ understanding. Further, the large majority of speakers’ gestures changed in their form. They tended to be more precise, larger, or more visually prominent after feedback. Some changes in gesture viewpoint were also observed. In addition, we found that speakers used deixis in speech and gaze to increase the salience of gestures occurring in response to feedback. Speakers appear to conceive of gesture as a useful modality in redesigning utterances to make them more accessible to addressees. The findings further our understanding of recipient design and co-speech gestures in face-to-face dialogue. Highlights ► Gesture rate remains constant in response to addressee feedback when the response aims to correct or clarify understanding. ► But gesture rate decreases when speakers provide confirmatory responses to feedback signalling correct understanding. ► Gestures are more communicative in response to addressee feedback, particularly in terms of precision, size and visual prominence. ► Speakers make gestures in response to addressee feedback more salient by using deictic markers in speech and gaze.
  • Holler, J., & Wilkin, K. (2011). Co-speech gesture mimicry in the process of collaborative referring during face-to-face dialogue. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 35, 133-153. doi:10.1007/s10919-011-0105-6.

    Abstract

    Mimicry has been observed regarding a range of nonverbal behaviors, but only recently have researchers started to investigate mimicry in co-speech gestures. These gestures are considered to be crucially different from other aspects of nonverbal behavior due to their tight link with speech. This study provides evidence of mimicry in co-speech gestures in face-to-face dialogue, the most common forum of everyday talk. In addition, it offers an analysis of the functions that mimicked co-speech gestures fulfill in the collaborative process of creating a mutually shared understanding of referring expressions. The implications bear on theories of gesture production, research on grounding, and the mechanisms underlying behavioral mimicry.
  • Holler, J. (2011). Verhaltenskoordination, Mimikry und sprachbegleitende Gestik in der Interaktion. Psychotherapie - Wissenschaft: Special issue: "Sieh mal, wer da spricht" - der Koerper in der Psychotherapie Teil IV, 1(1), 56-64. Retrieved from http://www.psychotherapie-wissenschaft.info/index.php/psy-wis/article/view/13/65.
  • Johnson, J. S., Sutterer, D. W., Acheson, D. J., Lewis-Peacock, J. A., & Postle, B. R. (2011). Increased alpha-band power during the retention of shapes and shape-location associations in visual short-term memory. Frontiers in Psychology, 2(128), 1-9. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00128.

    Abstract

    Studies exploring the role of neural oscillations in cognition have revealed sustained increases in alpha-band (∼8–14 Hz) power during the delay period of delayed-recognition short-term memory tasks. These increases have been proposed to reflect the inhibition, for example, of cortical areas representing task-irrelevant information, or of potentially interfering representations from previous trials. Another possibility, however, is that elevated delay-period alpha-band power (DPABP) reflects the selection and maintenance of information, rather than, or in addition to, the inhibition of task-irrelevant information. In the present study, we explored these possibilities using a delayed-recognition paradigm in which the presence and task relevance of shape information was systematically manipulated across trial blocks and electroencephalographic was used to measure alpha-band power. In the first trial block, participants remembered locations marked by identical black circles. The second block featured the same instructions, but locations were marked by unique shapes. The third block featured the same stimulus presentation as the second, but with pretrial instructions indicating, on a trial-by-trial basis, whether memory for shape or location was required, the other dimension being irrelevant. In the final block, participants remembered the unique pairing of shape and location for each stimulus. Results revealed minimal DPABP in each of the location-memory conditions, whether locations were marked with identical circles or with unique task-irrelevant shapes. In contrast, alpha-band power increases were observed in both the shape-memory condition, in which location was task irrelevant, and in the critical final condition, in which both shape and location were task relevant. These results provide support for the proposal that alpha-band oscillations reflect the retention of shape information and/or shape–location associations in short-term memory.
  • Kelly, S., Byrne, K., & Holler, J. (2011). Raising the stakes of communication: Evidence for increased gesture production as predicted by the GSA framework. Information, 2(4), 579-593. doi:10.3390/info2040579.

    Abstract

    Theorists of language have argued that co-­speech hand gestures are an intentional part of social communication. The present study provides evidence for these claims by showing that speakers adjust their gesture use according to their perceived relevance to the audience. Participants were asked to read about items that were and were not useful in a wilderness survival scenario, under the pretense that they would then explain (on camera) what they learned to one of two different audiences. For one audience (a group of college students in a dormitory orientation activity), the stakes of successful communication were low;; for the other audience (a group of students preparing for a rugged camping trip in the mountains), the stakes were high. In their explanations to the camera, participants in the high stakes condition produced three times as many representational gestures, and spent three times as much time gesturing, than participants in the low stakes condition. This study extends previous research by showing that the anticipated consequences of one’s communication—namely, the degree to which information may be useful to an intended recipient—influences speakers’ use of gesture.
  • Koenigs, M., Acheson, D. J., Barbey, A. K., Soloman, J., Postle, B. R., & Grafman, J. (2011). Areas of left perisylvian cortex mediate auditory-verbal short-term memory. Neuropsychologia, 49(13), 3612-3619. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2011.09.013.

    Abstract

    A contentious issue in memory research is whether verbal short-term memory (STM) depends on a neural system specifically dedicated to the temporary maintenance of information, or instead relies on the same brain areas subserving the comprehension and production of language. In this study, we examined a large sample of adults with acquired brain lesions to identify the critical neural substrates underlying verbal STM and the relationship between verbal STM and language processing abilities. We found that patients with damage to selective regions of left perisylvian cortex – specifically the inferior frontal and posterior temporal sectors – were impaired on auditory–verbal STM performance (digit span), as well as on tests requiring the production and/or comprehension of language. These results support the conclusion that verbal STM and language processing are mediated by the same areas of left perisylvian cortex.

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  • Kokal, I., Engel, A., Kirschner, S., & Keysers, C. (2011). Synchronized drumming enhances activity in the caudate and facilitates prosocial commitment - If the rhythm comes easily. PLoS One, 6(11), e27272. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0027272.

    Abstract

    Why does chanting, drumming or dancing together make people feel united? Here we investigate the neural mechanisms underlying interpersonal synchrony and its subsequent effects on prosocial behavior among synchronized individuals. We hypothesized that areas of the brain associated with the processing of reward would be active when individuals experience synchrony during drumming, and that these reward signals would increase prosocial behavior toward this synchronous drum partner. 18 female non-musicians were scanned with functional magnetic resonance imaging while they drummed a rhythm, in alternating blocks, with two different experimenters: one drumming in-synchrony and the other out-of-synchrony relative to the participant. In the last scanning part, which served as the experimental manipulation for the following prosocial behavioral test, one of the experimenters drummed with one half of the participants in-synchrony and with the other out-of-synchrony. After scanning, this experimenter "accidentally" dropped eight pencils, and the number of pencils collected by the participants was used as a measure of prosocial commitment. Results revealed that participants who mastered the novel rhythm easily before scanning showed increased activity in the caudate during synchronous drumming. The same area also responded to monetary reward in a localizer task with the same participants. The activity in the caudate during experiencing synchronous drumming also predicted the number of pencils the participants later collected to help the synchronous experimenter of the manipulation run. In addition, participants collected more pencils to help the experimenter when she had drummed in-synchrony than out-of-synchrony during the manipulation run. By showing an overlap in activated areas during synchronized drumming and monetary reward, our findings suggest that interpersonal synchrony is related to the brain's reward system.
  • Menenti, L., Gierhan, S., Segaert, K., & Hagoort, P. (2011). Shared language: Overlap and segregation of the neuronal infrastructure for speaking and listening revealed by functional MRI. Psychological Science, 22, 1173-1182. doi:10.1177/0956797611418347.

    Abstract

    Whether the brain’s speech-production system is also involved in speech comprehension is a topic of much debate. Research has focused on whether motor areas are involved in listening, but overlap between speaking and listening might occur not only at primary sensory and motor levels, but also at linguistic levels (where semantic, lexical, and syntactic processes occur). Using functional MRI adaptation during speech comprehension and production, we found that the brain areas involved in semantic, lexical, and syntactic processing are mostly the same for speaking and for listening. Effects of primary processing load (indicative of sensory and motor processes) overlapped in auditory cortex and left inferior frontal cortex, but not in motor cortex, where processing load affected activity only in speaking. These results indicate that the linguistic parts of the language system are used for both speaking and listening, but that the motor system does not seem to provide a crucial contribution to listening.
  • Pijnacker, J., Geurts, B., Van Lambalgen, M., Buitelaar, J., & Hagoort, P. (2011). Reasoning with exceptions: An event-related brain potentials study. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 23, 471-480. doi:10.1162/jocn.2009.21360.

    Abstract

    Defeasible inferences are inferences that can be revised in the light of new information. Although defeasible inferences are pervasive in everyday communication, little is known about how and when they are processed by the brain. This study examined the electrophysiological signature of defeasible reasoning using a modified version of the suppression task. Participants were presented with conditional inferences (of the type “if p, then q; p, therefore q”) that were preceded by a congruent or a disabling context. The disabling context contained a possible exception or precondition that prevented people from drawing the conclusion. Acceptability of the conclusion was indeed lower in the disabling condition compared to the congruent condition. Further, we found a large sustained negativity at the conclusion of the disabling condition relative to the congruent condition, which started around 250 msec and was persistent throughout the entire epoch. Possible accounts for the observed effect are discussed.
  • Scheeringa, R., Fries, P., Petersson, K. M., Oostenveld, R., Grothe, I., Norris, D. G., Hagoort, P., & Bastiaansen, M. C. M. (2011). Neuronal dynamics underlying high- and low- frequency EEG oscillations contribute independently to the human BOLD signal. Neuron, 69, 572-583. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2010.11.044.

    Abstract

    Work on animals indicates that BOLD is preferentially sensitive to local field potentials, and that it correlates most strongly with gamma band neuronal synchronization. Here we investigate how the BOLD signal in humans performing a cognitive task is related to neuronal synchronization across different frequency bands. We simultaneously recorded EEG and BOLD while subjects engaged in a visual attention task known to induce sustained changes in neuronal synchronization across a wide range of frequencies. Trial-by-trial BOLD luctuations correlated positively with trial-by-trial fluctuations in high-EEG gamma power (60–80 Hz) and negatively with alpha and beta power. Gamma power on the one hand, and alpha and beta power on the other hand, independently contributed to explaining BOLD variance. These results indicate that the BOLD-gamma coupling observed in animals can be extrapolated to humans performing a task and that neuronal dynamics underlying high- and low-frequency synchronization contribute independently to the BOLD signal.

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  • Segaert, K., Menenti, L., Weber, K., & Hagoort, P. (2011). A paradox of syntactic priming: Why response tendencies show priming for passives, and response latencies show priming for actives. PLoS One, 6(10), e24209. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0024209.

    Abstract

    Speakers tend to repeat syntactic structures across sentences, a phenomenon called syntactic priming. Although it has been suggested that repeating syntactic structures should result in speeded responses, previous research has focused on effects in response tendencies. We investigated syntactic priming effects simultaneously in response tendencies and response latencies for active and passive transitive sentences in a picture description task. In Experiment 1, there were priming effects in response tendencies for passives and in response latencies for actives. However, when participants' pre-existing preference for actives was altered in Experiment 2, syntactic priming occurred for both actives and passives in response tendencies as well as in response latencies. This is the first investigation of the effects of structure frequency on both response tendencies and latencies in syntactic priming. We discuss the implications of these data for current theories of syntactic processing.

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  • Small, S. L., Hickok, G., Nusbaum, H. C., Blumstein, S., Coslett, H. B., Dell, G., Hagoort, P., Kutas, M., Marantz, A., Pylkkanen, L., Thompson-Schill, S., Watkins, K., & Wise, R. J. (2011). The neurobiology of language: Two years later [Editorial]. Brain and Language, 116(3), 103-104. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2011.02.004.
  • Tesink, C. M. J. Y., Buitelaar, J. K., Petersson, K. M., Van der Gaag, R. J., Teunisse, J.-P., & Hagoort, P. (2011). Neural correlates of language comprehension in autism spectrum disorders: When language conflicts with world knowledge. Neuropsychologia, 49, 1095-1104. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2011.01.018.

    Abstract

    In individuals with ASD, difficulties with language comprehension are most evident when higher-level semantic-pragmatic language processing is required, for instance when context has to be used to interpret the meaning of an utterance. Until now, it is unclear at what level of processing and for what type of context these difficulties in language comprehension occur. Therefore, in the current fMRI study, we investigated the neural correlates of the integration of contextual information during auditory language comprehension in 24 adults with ASD and 24 matched control participants. Different levels of context processing were manipulated by using spoken sentences that were correct or contained either a semantic or world knowledge anomaly. Our findings demonstrated significant differences between the groups in inferior frontal cortex that were only present for sentences with a world knowledge anomaly. Relative to the ASD group, the control group showed significantly increased activation in left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG) for sentences with a world knowledge anomaly compared to correct sentences. This effect possibly indicates reduced integrative capacities of the ASD group. Furthermore, world knowledge anomalies elicited significantly stronger activation in right inferior frontal gyrus (RIFG) in the control group compared to the ASD group. This additional RIFG activation probably reflects revision of the situation model after new, conflicting information. The lack of recruitment of RIFG is possibly related to difficulties with exception handling in the ASD group.

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  • Van Leeuwen, T. M., Den Ouden, H. E. M., & Hagoort, P. (2011). Effective connectivity determines the nature of subjective experience in grapheme-color synesthesia. Journal of Neuroscience, 31, 9879-9884. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0569-11.2011.

    Abstract

    Synesthesia provides an elegant model to investigate neural mechanisms underlying individual differences in subjective experience in humans. In grapheme–color synesthesia, written letters induce color sensations, accompanied by activation of color area V4. Competing hypotheses suggest that enhanced V4 activity during synesthesia is either induced by direct bottom-up cross-activation from grapheme processing areas within the fusiform gyrus, or indirectly via higher-order parietal areas. Synesthetes differ in the way synesthetic color is perceived: “projector” synesthetes experience color externally colocalized with a presented grapheme, whereas “associators” report an internally evoked association. Using dynamic causal modeling for fMRI, we show that V4 cross-activation during synesthesia was induced via a bottom-up pathway (within fusiform gyrus) in projector synesthetes, but via a top-down pathway (via parietal lobe) in associators. These findings show how altered coupling within the same network of active regions leads to differences in subjective experience. Our findings reconcile the two most influential cross-activation accounts of synesthesia.
  • De Vries, M., Christiansen, M. H., & Petersson, K. M. (2011). Learning recursion: Multiple nested and crossed dependencies. Biolinguistics, 5(1/2), 010-035.

    Abstract

    Language acquisition in both natural and artificial language learning settings crucially depends on extracting information from sequence input. A shared sequence learning mechanism is thus assumed to underlie both natural and artificial language learning. A growing body of empirical evidence is consistent with this hypothesis. By means of artificial language learning experiments, we may therefore gain more insight in this shared mechanism. In this paper, we review empirical evidence from artificial language learning and computational modelling studies, as well as natural language data, and suggest that there are two key factors that help determine processing complexity in sequence learning, and thus in natural language processing. We propose that the specific ordering of non-adjacent dependencies (i.e., nested or crossed), as well as the number of non-adjacent dependencies to be resolved simultaneously (i.e., two or three) are important factors in gaining more insight into the boundaries of human sequence learning; and thus, also in natural language processing. The implications for theories of linguistic competence are discussed.
  • Wang, L., Bastiaansen, M. C. M., Yang, Y., & Hagoort, P. (2011). The influence of information structure on the depth of semantic processing: How focus and pitch accent determine the size of the N400 effect. Neuropsychologia, 49, 813-820. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.12.035.

    Abstract

    To highlight relevant information in dialogues, both wh-question context and pitch accent in answers can be used, such that focused information gains more attention and is processed more elaborately. To evaluate the relative influence of context and pitch accent on the depth of semantic processing, we measured Event-Related Potentials (ERPs) to auditorily presented wh-question-answer pairs. A semantically incongruent word in the answer occurred either in focus or non-focus position as determined by the context, and this word was either accented or unaccented. Semantic incongruency elicited different N400 effects in different conditions. The largest N400 effect was found when the question-marked focus was accented, while the other three conditions elicited smaller N400 effects. The results suggest that context and accentuation interact. Thus accented focused words were processed more deeply compared to conditions where focus and accentuation mismatched, or when the new information had no marking. In addition, there seems to be sex differences in the depth of semantic processing. For males, a significant N400 effect was observed only when the question-marked focus was accented, reduced N400 effects were found in the other dialogues. In contrast, females produced similar N400 effects in all the conditions. These results suggest that regardless of external cues, females tend to engage in more elaborate semantic processing compared to males.
  • Willems, R. M., Labruna, L., D'Esposito, M., Ivry, R., & Casasanto, D. (2011). A functional role for the motor system in language understanding: Evidence from Theta-Burst Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. Psychological Science, 22, 849 -854. doi:10.1177/0956797611412387.

    Abstract

    Does language comprehension depend, in part, on neural systems for action? In previous studies, motor areas of the brain were activated when people read or listened to action verbs, but it remains unclear whether such activation is functionally relevant for comprehension. In the experiments reported here, we used off-line theta-burst transcranial magnetic stimulation to investigate whether a causal relationship exists between activity in premotor cortex and action-language understanding. Right-handed participants completed a lexical decision task, in which they read verbs describing manual actions typically performed with the dominant hand (e.g., “to throw,” “to write”) and verbs describing nonmanual actions (e.g., “to earn,” “to wander”). Responses to manual-action verbs (but not to nonmanual-action verbs) were faster after stimulation of the hand area in left premotor cortex than after stimulation of the hand area in right premotor cortex. These results suggest that premotor cortex has a functional role in action-language understanding.

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  • Willems, R. M., Clevis, K., & Hagoort, P. (2011). Add a picture for suspense: Neural correlates of the interaction between language and visual information in the perception of fear. Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 6, 404-416. doi:10.1093/scan/nsq050.

    Abstract

    We investigated how visual and linguistic information interact in the perception of emotion. We borrowed a phenomenon from film theory which states that presentation of an as such neutral visual scene intensifies the percept of fear or suspense induced by a different channel of information, such as language. Our main aim was to investigate how neutral visual scenes can enhance responses to fearful language content in parts of the brain involved in the perception of emotion. Healthy participants’ brain activity was measured (using functional magnetic resonance imaging) while they read fearful and less fearful sentences presented with or without a neutral visual scene. The main idea is that the visual scenes intensify the fearful content of the language by subtly implying and concretizing what is described in the sentence. Activation levels in the right anterior temporal pole were selectively increased when a neutral visual scene was paired with a fearful sentence, compared to reading the sentence alone, as well as to reading of non-fearful sentences presented with the same neutral scene. We conclude that the right anterior temporal pole serves a binding function of emotional information across domains such as visual and linguistic information.
  • Willems, R. M., Benn, Y., Hagoort, P., Tonia, I., & Varley, R. (2011). Communicating without a functioning language system: Implications for the role of language in mentalizing. Neuropsychologia, 49, 3130-3135. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2011.07.023.

    Abstract

    A debated issue in the relationship between language and thought is how our linguistic abilities are involved in understanding the intentions of others (‘mentalizing’). The results of both theoretical and empirical work have been used to argue that linguistic, and more specifically, grammatical, abilities are crucial in representing the mental states of others. Here we contribute to this debate by investigating how damage to the language system influences the generation and understanding of intentional communicative behaviors. Four patients with pervasive language difficulties (severe global or agrammatic aphasia) engaged in an experimentally controlled non-verbal communication paradigm, which required signaling and understanding a communicative message. Despite their profound language problems they were able to engage in recipient design as well as intention recognition, showing similar indicators of mentalizing as have been observed in the neurologically healthy population. Our results show that aspects of the ability to communicate remain present even when core capacities of the language system are dysfunctional
  • Willems, R. M., & Casasanto, D. (2011). Flexibility in embodied language understanding. Frontiers in Psychology, 2, 116. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00116.

    Abstract

    Do people use sensori-motor cortices to understand language? Here we review neurocognitive studies of language comprehension in healthy adults and evaluate their possible contributions to theories of language in the brain. We start by sketching the minimal predictions that an embodied theory of language understanding makes for empirical research, and then survey studies that have been offered as evidence for embodied semantic representations. We explore four debated issues: first, does activation of sensori-motor cortices during action language understanding imply that action semantics relies on mirror neurons? Second, what is the evidence that activity in sensori-motor cortices plays a functional role in understanding language? Third, to what extent do responses in perceptual and motor areas depend on the linguistic and extra-linguistic context? And finally, can embodied theories accommodate language about abstract concepts? Based on the available evidence, we conclude that sensori-motor cortices are activated during a variety of language comprehension tasks, for both concrete and abstract language. Yet, this activity depends on the context in which perception and action words are encountered. Although modality-specific cortical activity is not a sine qua non of language processing even for language about perception and action, sensori-motor regions of the brain appear to make functional contributions to the construction of meaning, and should therefore be incorporated into models of the neurocognitive architecture of language.
  • Willems, R. M. (2011). Re-appreciating the why of cognition: 35 years after Marr and Poggio. Frontiers in Psychology, 2, 244. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00244.

    Abstract

    Marr and Poggio’s levels of description are one of the most well-known theoretical constructs of twentieth century cognitive science. It entails that behavior can and should be considered at three different levels: computation, algorithm, and implementation. In this contribution focus is on the computational level of description, the level that describes the “why” of cognition. I argue that the computational level should be taken as a starting point in devising experiments in cognitive (neuro)science. Instead, the starting point in empirical practice often is a focus on the stimulus or on some capacity of the cognitive system. The “why” of cognition tends to be ignored when designing research, and is not considered in subsequent inference from experimental results. The overall aim of this manuscript is to show how re-appreciation of the computational level of description as a starting point for experiments can lead to more informative experimentation.
  • Adank, P., Hagoort, P., & Bekkering, H. (2010). Imitation improves language comprehension. Psychological Science, 21, 1903-1909. doi:10.1177/0956797610389192.

    Abstract

    Humans imitate each other during social interaction. This imitative behavior streamlines social interaction and aids in learning to replicate actions. However, the effect of imitation on action comprehension is unclear. This study investigated whether vocal imitation of an unfamiliar accent improved spoken-language comprehension. Following a pretraining accent comprehension test, participants were assigned to one of six groups. The baseline group received no training, but participants in the other five groups listened to accented sentences, listened to and repeated accented sentences in their own accent, listened to and transcribed accented sentences, listened to and imitated accented sentences, or listened to and imitated accented sentences without being able to hear their own vocalizations. Posttraining measures showed that accent comprehension was most improved for participants who imitated the speaker’s accent. These results show that imitation may aid in streamlining interaction by improving spoken-language comprehension under adverse listening conditions.
  • Andics, A., McQueen, J. M., Petersson, K. M., Gál, V., Rudas, G., & Vidnyánszky, Z. (2010). Neural mechanisms for voice recognition. NeuroImage, 52, 1528-1540. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.05.048.

    Abstract

    We investigated neural mechanisms that support voice recognition in a training paradigm with fMRI. The same listeners were trained on different weeks to categorize the mid-regions of voice-morph continua as an individual's voice. Stimuli implicitly defined a voice-acoustics space, and training explicitly defined a voice-identity space. The predefined centre of the voice category was shifted from the acoustic centre each week in opposite directions, so the same stimuli had different training histories on different tests. Cortical sensitivity to voice similarity appeared over different time-scales and at different representational stages. First, there were short-term adaptation effects: Increasing acoustic similarity to the directly preceding stimulus led to haemodynamic response reduction in the middle/posterior STS and in right ventrolateral prefrontal regions. Second, there were longer-term effects: Response reduction was found in the orbital/insular cortex for stimuli that were most versus least similar to the acoustic mean of all preceding stimuli, and, in the anterior temporal pole, the deep posterior STS and the amygdala, for stimuli that were most versus least similar to the trained voice-identity category mean. These findings are interpreted as effects of neural sharpening of long-term stored typical acoustic and category-internal values. The analyses also reveal anatomically separable voice representations: one in a voice-acoustics space and one in a voice-identity space. Voice-identity representations flexibly followed the trained identity shift, and listeners with a greater identity effect were more accurate at recognizing familiar voices. Voice recognition is thus supported by neural voice spaces that are organized around flexible ‘mean voice’ representations.
  • Araújo, S., Pacheco, A., Faísca, L., Petersson, K. M., & Reis, A. (2010). Visual rapid naming and phonological abilities: Different subtypes in dyslexic children. International Journal of Psychology, 45, 443-452. doi:10.1080/00207594.2010.499949.

    Abstract

    One implication of the double-deficit hypothesis for dyslexia is that there should be subtypes of dyslexic readers that exhibit rapid naming deficits with or without concomitant phonological processing problems. In the current study, we investigated the validity of this hypothesis for Portuguese orthography, which is more consistent than English orthography, by exploring different cognitive profiles in a sample of dyslexic children. In particular, we were interested in identifying readers characterized by a pure rapid automatized naming deficit. We also examined whether rapid naming and phonological awareness independently account for individual differences in reading performance. We characterized the performance of dyslexic readers and a control group of normal readers matched for age on reading, visual rapid naming and phonological processing tasks. Our results suggest that there is a subgroup of dyslexic readers with intact phonological processing capacity (in terms of both accuracy and speed measures) but poor rapid naming skills. We also provide evidence for an independent association between rapid naming and reading competence in the dyslexic sample, when the effect of phonological skills was controlled. Altogether, the results are more consistent with the view that rapid naming problems in dyslexia represent a second core deficit rather than an exclusive phonological explanation for the rapid naming deficits. Furthermore, additional non-phonological processes, which subserve rapid naming performance, contribute independently to reading development.
  • Baggio, G., Choma, T., Van Lambalgen, M., & Hagoort, P. (2010). Coercion and compositionality. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 22, 2131-2140. doi:10.1162/jocn.2009.21303.

    Abstract

    Research in psycholinguistics and in the cognitive neuroscience of language has suggested that semantic and syntactic integration are associated with different neurophysiologic correlates, such as the N400 and the P600 in the ERPs. However, only a handful of studies have investigated the neural basis of the syntax–semantics interface, and even fewer experiments have dealt with the cases in which semantic composition can proceed independently of the syntax. Here we looked into one such case—complement coercion—using ERPs. We compared sentences such as, “The journalist wrote the article” with “The journalist began the article.” The second sentence seems to involve a silent semantic element, which is expressed in the first sentence by the head of the VP “wrote the article.” The second type of construction may therefore require the reader to infer or recover from memory a richer event sense of the VP “began the article,” such as began writing the article, and to integrate that into a semantic representation of the sentence. This operation is referred to as “complement coercion.” Consistently with earlier reading time, eye tracking, and MEG studies, we found traces of such additional computations in the ERPs: Coercion gives rise to a long-lasting negative shift, which differs at least in duration from a standard N400 effect. Issues regarding the nature of the computation involved are discussed in the light of a neurocognitive model of language processing and a formal semantic analysis of coercion.
  • Bastiaansen, M. C. M., Magyari, L., & Hagoort, P. (2010). Syntactic unification operations are reflected in oscillatory dynamics during on-line sentence comprehension. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 22, 1333-1347. doi:10.1162/jocn.2009.21283.

    Abstract

    There is growing evidence suggesting that synchronization changes in the oscillatory neuronal dynamics in the EEG or MEG reflect the transient coupling and uncoupling of functional networks related to different aspects of language comprehension. In this work, we examine how sentence-level syntactic unification operations are reflected in the oscillatory dynamics of the MEG. Participants read sentences that were either correct, contained a word category violation, or were constituted of random word sequences devoid of syntactic structure. A time-frequency analysis of MEG power changes revealed three types of effects. The first type of effect was related to the detection of a (word category) violation in a syntactically structured sentence, and was found in the alpha and gamma frequency bands. A second type of effect was maximally sensitive to the syntactic manipulations: A linear increase in beta power across the sentence was present for correct sentences, was disrupted upon the occurrence of a word category violation, and was absent in syntactically unstructured random word sequences. We therefore relate this effect to syntactic unification operations. Thirdly, we observed a linear increase in theta power across the sentence for all syntactically structured sentences. The effects are tentatively related to the building of a working memory trace of the linguistic input. In conclusion, the data seem to suggest that syntactic unification is reflected by neuronal synchronization in the lower-beta frequency band.
  • Bramão, I., Faísca, L., Forkstam, C., Reis, A., & Petersson, K. M. (2010). Cortical brain regions associated with color processing: An FMRI study. The Open Neuroimaging Journal, 4, 164-173. doi:10.2174/1874440001004010164.

    Abstract

    To clarify whether the neural pathways concerning color processing are the same for natural objects, for artifacts objects and for non-sense objects we examined functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) responses during a covert naming task including the factors color (color vs. black&white (B&W)) and stimulus type (natural vs. artifacts vs. non-sense objects). Our results indicate that the superior parietal lobule and precuneus (BA 7) bilaterally, the right hippocampus and the right fusifom gyrus (V4) make part of a network responsible for color processing both for natural and artifacts objects, but not for non-sense objects. The recognition of non-sense colored objects compared to the recognition of color objects activated the posterior cingulate/precuneus (BA 7/23/31), suggesting that color attribute induces the mental operation of trying to associate a non-sense composition with a familiar objects. When color objects (both natural and artifacts) were contrasted with color nonobjects we observed activations in the right parahippocampal gyrus (BA 35/36), the superior parietal lobule (BA 7) bilaterally, the left inferior middle temporal region (BA 20/21) and the inferior and superior frontal regions (BA 10/11/47). These additional activations suggest that colored objects recruit brain regions that are related to visual semantic information/retrieval and brain regions related to visuo-spatial processing. Overall, the results suggest that color information is an attribute that improve object recognition (based on behavioral results) and activate a specific neural network related to visual semantic information that is more extensive than for B&W objects during object recognition
  • Bramão, I., Faísca, L., Petersson, K. M., & Reis, A. (2010). The influence of surface color information and color knowledge information in object recognition. American Journal of Psychology, 123, 437-466. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/amerjpsyc.123.4.0437.

    Abstract

    In order to clarify whether the influence of color knowledge information in object recognition depends on the presence of the appropriate surface color, we designed a name—object verification task. The relationship between color and shape information provided by the name and by the object photo was manipulated in order to assess color interference independently of shape interference. We tested three different versions for each object: typically colored, black and white, and nontypically colored. The response times on the nonmatching trials were used to measure the interference between the name and the photo. We predicted that the more similar the name and the photo are, the longer it would take to respond. Overall, the color similarity effect disappeared in the black-and-white and nontypical color conditions, suggesting that the influence of color knowledge on object recognition depends on the presence of the appropriate surface color information.
  • Casasanto, D., & Jasmin, K. (2010). Good and bad in the hands of politicians: Spontaneous gestures during positive and negative speech. PLoS ONE, 5(7), E11805. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0011805.

    Abstract

    According to the body-specificity hypothesis, people with different bodily characteristics should form correspondingly different mental representations, even in highly abstract conceptual domains. In a previous test of this proposal, right- and left-handers were found to associate positive ideas like intelligence, attractiveness, and honesty with their dominant side and negative ideas with their non-dominant side. The goal of the present study was to determine whether ‘body-specific’ associations of space and valence can be observed beyond the laboratory in spontaneous behavior, and whether these implicit associations have visible consequences.
  • Casasanto, D., & Dijkstra, K. (2010). Motor action and emotional memory. Cognition, 115, 179-185. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2009.11.002.

    Abstract

    Can simple motor actions affect how efficiently people retrieve emotional memories, and influence what they choose to remember? In Experiment 1, participants were prompted to retell autobiographical memories with either positive or negative valence, while moving marbles either upward or downward. They retrieved memories faster when the direction of movement was congruent with the valence of the memory (upward for positive, downward for negative memories). Given neutral-valence prompts in Experiment 2, participants retrieved more positive memories when instructed to move marbles up, and more negative memories when instructed to move them down, demonstrating a causal link from motion to emotion. Results suggest that positive and negative life experiences are implicitly associated with schematic representations of upward and downward motion, consistent with theories of metaphorical mental representation. Beyond influencing the efficiency of memory retrieval, the direction of irrelevant, repetitive motor actions can also partly determine the emotional content of the memories people retrieve: moving marbles upward (an ostensibly meaningless action) can cause people to think more positive thoughts.
  • Casasanto, D., Fotakopoulou, O., & Boroditsky, L. (2010). Space and time in the child's mind: Evidence for a cross-dimensional asymmetry. Cognitive Science, 34, 387 -405. doi:10.1111/j.1551-6709.2010.01094.x.

    Abstract

    What is the relationship between space and time in the human mind? Studies in adults show an asymmetric relationship between mental representations of these basic dimensions of experience: Representations of time depend on space more than representations of space depend on time. Here we investigated the relationship between space and time in the developing mind. Native Greek-speaking children watched movies of two animals traveling along parallel paths for different distances or durations and judged the spatial and temporal aspects of these events (e.g., Which animal went for a longer distance, or a longer time?). Results showed a reliable cross-dimensional asymmetry. For the same stimuli, spatial information influenced temporal judgments more than temporal information influenced spatial judgments. This pattern was robust to variations in the age of the participants and the type of linguistic framing used to elicit responses. This finding demonstrates a continuity between space-time representations in children and adults, and informs theories of analog magnitude representation.
  • Folia, V., Uddén, J., De Vries, M., Forkstam, C., & Petersson, K. M. (2010). Artificial language learning in adults and children. Language learning, 60(s2), 188-220. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9922.2010.00606.x.

    Abstract

    This article briefly reviews some recent work on artificial language learning in children and adults. The final part of the article is devoted to a theoretical formulation of the language learning problem from a mechanistic neurobiological viewpoint and we show that it is logically possible to combine the notion of innate language constraints with, for example, the notion of domain general learning mechanisms. A growing body of empirical evidence suggests that the mechanisms involved in artificial language learning and in structured sequence processing are shared with those of natural language acquisition and natural language processing. Finally, by theoretically analyzing a formal learning model, we highlight Fodor’s insight that it is logically possible to combine innate, domain-specific constraints with domain-general learning mechanisms.
  • Fournier, R., Gussenhoven, C., Jensen, O., & Hagoort, P. (2010). Lateralization of tonal and intonational pitch processing: An MEG study. Brain Research, 1328, 79-88. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2010.02.053.

    Abstract

    An MEG experiment was carried out in order to compare the processing of lexical-tonal and intonational contrasts, based on the tonal dialect of Roermond (the Netherlands). A set of words with identical phoneme sequences but distinct pitch contours, which represented different lexical meanings or discourse meanings (statement vs. question), were presented to native speakers as well as to a control group of speakers of Standard Dutch, a non-tone language. The stimuli were arranged in a mismatch paradigm, under three experimental conditions: in the first condition (lexical), the pitch contour differences between standard and deviant stimuli reflected differences between lexical meanings; in the second condition (intonational), the stimuli differed in their discourse meaning; in the third condition (combined), they differed both in their lexical and discourse meaning. In all three conditions, native as well as non-native responses showed a clear MMNm (magnetic mismatch negativity) in a time window from 150 to 250 ms after the divergence point of standard and deviant pitch contours. In the lexical condition, a stronger response was found over the left temporal cortex of native as well as non-native speakers. In the intonational condition, the same activation pattern was observed in the control group, but not in the group of native speakers, who showed a right-hemisphere dominance instead. Finally, in the combined (lexical and intonational) condition, brain reactions appeared to represent the summation of the patterns found in the other two conditions. In sum, the lateralization of pitch processing is condition-dependent in the native group only, which suggests that language experience determines how processes should be distributed over both temporal cortices, according to the functions available in the grammar.
  • Groen, W. B., Tesink, C. M. J. Y., Petersson, K. M., Van Berkum, J. J. A., Van der Gaag, R. J., Hagoort, P., & Buitelaar, J. K. (2010). Semantic, factual, and social language comprehension in adolescents with autism: An fMRI study. Cerebral Cortex, 20(8), 1937-1945. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhp264.

    Abstract

    Language in high-functioning autism is characterized by pragmatic and semantic deficits, and people with autism have a reduced tendency to integrate information. Because the left and right inferior frontal (LIF and RIF) regions are implicated with integration of speaker information, world knowledge, and semantic knowledge, we hypothesized that abnormal functioning of the LIF and RIF regions might contribute to pragmatic and semantic language deficits in autism. Brain activation of sixteen 12- to 18-year-old, high-functioning autistic participants was measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging during sentence comprehension and compared with that of twenty-six matched controls. The content of the pragmatic sentence was congruent or incongruent with respect to the speaker characteristics (male/female, child/adult, and upper class/lower class). The semantic- and world-knowledge sentences were congruent or incongruent with respect to semantic expectancies and factual expectancies about the world, respectively. In the semanticknowledge and world-knowledge condition, activation of the LIF region did not differ between groups. In sentences that required integration of speaker information, the autism group showed abnormally reduced activation of the LIF region. The results suggest that people with autism may recruit the LIF region in a different manner in tasks that demand integration of social information.
  • Kelly, S. D., Ozyurek, A., & Maris, E. (2010). Two sides of the same coin: Speech and gesture mutually interact to enhance comprehension. Psychological Science, 21, 260-267. doi:10.1177/0956797609357327.

    Abstract

    Gesture and speech are assumed to form an integrated system during language production. Based on this view, we propose the integrated‐systems hypothesis, which explains two ways in which gesture and speech are integrated—through mutual and obligatory interactions—in language comprehension. Experiment 1 presented participants with action primes (e.g., someone chopping vegetables) and bimodal speech and gesture targets. Participants related primes to targets more quickly and accurately when they contained congruent information (speech: “chop”; gesture: chop) than when they contained incongruent information (speech: “chop”; gesture: twist). Moreover, the strength of the incongruence affected processing, with fewer errors for weak incongruities (speech: “chop”; gesture: cut) than for strong incongruities (speech: “chop”; gesture: twist). Crucial for the integrated‐systems hypothesis, this influence was bidirectional. Experiment 2 demonstrated that gesture’s influence on speech was obligatory. The results confirm the integrated‐systems hypothesis and demonstrate that gesture and speech form an integrated system in language comprehension.
  • Kos, M., Vosse, T. G., Van den Brink, D., & Hagoort, P. (2010). About edible restaurants: Conflicts between syntax and semantics as revealed by ERPs. Frontiers in Psychology, 1, E222. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2010.00222.

    Abstract

    In order to investigate conflicts between semantics and syntax, we recorded ERPs, while participants read Dutch sentences. Sentences containing conflicts between syntax and semantics (Fred eats in a sandwich…/ Fred eats a restaurant…) elicited an N400. These results show that conflicts between syntax and semantics not necessarily lead to P600 effects and are in line with the processing competition account. According to this parallel account the syntactic and semantic processing streams are fully interactive and information from one level can influence the processing at another level. The relative strength of the cues of the processing streams determines which level is affected most strongly by the conflict. The processing competition account maintains the distinction between the N400 as index for semantic processing and the P600 as index for structural processing.
  • Ladd, D. R., & Dediu, D. (2010). Reply to Järvikivi et al. (2010) [Web log message]. Plos One. Retrieved from http://www.plosone.org/article/comments/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0012603.
  • Maguire, W., McMahon, A., Heggarty, P., & Dediu, D. (2010). The past, present, and future of English dialects: Quantifying convergence, divergence, and dynamic equilibrium. Language Variation and Change, 22, 69-104. doi:10.1017/S0954394510000013.

    Abstract

    This article reports on research which seeks to compare and measure the similarities between phonetic transcriptions in the analysis of relationships between varieties of English. It addresses the question of whether these varieties have been converging, diverging, or maintaining equilibrium as a result of endogenous and exogenous phonetic and phonological changes. We argue that it is only possible to identify such patterns of change by the simultaneous comparison of a wide range of varieties of a language across a data set that has not been specifically selected to highlight those changes that are believed to be important. Our analysis suggests that although there has been an obvious reduction in regional variation with the loss of traditional dialects of English and Scots, there has not been any significant convergence (or divergence) of regional accents of English in recent decades, despite the rapid spread of a number of features such as TH-fronting.
  • Merritt, D. J., Casasanto, D., & Brannon, E. M. (2010). Do monkeys think in metaphors? Representations of space and time in monkeys and humans. Cognition, 117, 191-202. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2010.08.011.

    Abstract

    Research on the relationship between the representation of space and time has produced two contrasting proposals. ATOM posits that space and time are represented via a common magnitude system, suggesting a symmetrical relationship between space and time. According to metaphor theory, however, representations of time depend on representations of space asymmetrically. Previous findings in humans have supported metaphor theory. Here, we investigate the relationship between time and space in a nonverbal species, by testing whether non-human primates show space–time interactions consistent with metaphor theory or with ATOM. We tested two rhesus monkeys and 16 adult humans in a nonverbal task that assessed the influence of an irrelevant dimension (time or space) on a relevant dimension (space or time). In humans, spatial extent had a large effect on time judgments whereas time had a small effect on spatial judgments. In monkeys, both spatial and temporal manipulations showed large bi-directional effects on judgments. In contrast to humans, spatial manipulations in monkeys did not produce a larger effect on temporal judgments than the reverse. Thus, consistent with previous findings, human adults showed asymmetrical space–time interactions that were predicted by metaphor theory. In contrast, monkeys showed patterns that were more consistent with ATOM.
  • Meulenbroek, O., Kessels, R. P. C., De Rover, M., Petersson, K. M., Olde Rikkert, M. G. M., Rijpkema, M., & Fernández, G. (2010). Age-effects on associative object-location memory. Brain Research, 1315, 100-110. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2009.12.011.

    Abstract

    Aging is accompanied by an impairment of associative memory. The medial temporal lobe and fronto-striatal network, both involved in associative memory, are known to decline functionally and structurally with age, leading to the so-called associative binding deficit and the resource deficit. Because the MTL and fronto-striatal network interact, they might also be able to support each other. We therefore employed an episodic memory task probing memory for sequences of object–location associations, where the demand on self-initiated processing was manipulated during encoding: either all the objects were visible simultaneously (rich environmental support) or every object became visible transiently (poor environmental support). Following the concept of resource deficit, we hypothesised that the elderly probably have difficulty using their declarative memory system when demands on self-initiated processing are high (poor environmental support). Our behavioural study showed that only the young use the rich environmental support in a systematic way, by placing the objects next to each other. With the task adapted for fMRI, we found that elderly showed stronger activity than young subjects during retrieval of environmentally richly encoded information in the basal ganglia, thalamus, left middle temporal/fusiform gyrus and right medial temporal lobe (MTL). These results indicate that rich environmental support leads to recruitment of the declarative memory system in addition to the fronto-striatal network in elderly, while the young use more posterior brain regions likely related to imagery. We propose that elderly try to solve the task by additional recruitment of stimulus-response associations, which might partly compensate their limited attentional resources.
  • Noordzij, M. L., Newman-Norlund, S. E., De Ruiter, J. P., Hagoort, P., Levinson, S. C., & Toni, I. (2010). Neural correlates of intentional communication. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 4, E188. doi:10.3389/fnins.2010.00188.

    Abstract

    We know a great deal about the neurophysiological mechanisms supporting instrumental actions, i.e. actions designed to alter the physical state of the environment. In contrast, little is known about our ability to select communicative actions, i.e. actions directly designed to modify the mental state of another agent. We have recently provided novel empirical evidence for a mechanism in which a communicator selects his actions on the basis of a prediction of the communicative intentions that an addressee is most likely to attribute to those actions. The main novelty of those finding was that this prediction of intention recognition is cerebrally implemented within the intention recognition system of the communicator, is modulated by the ambiguity in meaning of the communicative acts, and not by their sensorimotor complexity. The characteristics of this predictive mechanism support the notion that human communicative abilities are distinct from both sensorimotor and linguistic processes.
  • Ozyurek, A., Zwitserlood, I., & Perniss, P. M. (2010). Locative expressions in signed languages: A view from Turkish Sign Language (TID). Linguistics, 48(5), 1111-1145. doi:10.1515/LING.2010.036.

    Abstract

    Locative expressions encode the spatial relationship between two (or more) entities. In this paper, we focus on locative expressions in signed language, which use the visual-spatial modality for linguistic expression, specifically in Turkish Sign Language ( Türk İşaret Dili, henceforth TİD). We show that TİD uses various strategies in discourse to encode the relation between a Ground entity (i.e., a bigger and/or backgrounded entity) and a Figure entity (i.e., a smaller entity, which is in the focus of attention). Some of these strategies exploit affordances of the visual modality for analogue representation and support evidence for modality-specific effects on locative expressions in sign languages. However, other modality-specific strategies, e.g., the simultaneous expression of Figure and Ground, which have been reported for many other sign languages, occurs only sparsely in TİD. Furthermore, TİD uses categorical as well as analogical structures in locative expressions. On the basis of these findings, we discuss differences and similarities between signed and spoken languages to broaden our understanding of the range of structures used in natural language (i.e., in both the visual-spatial or oral-aural modalities) to encode locative relations. A general linguistic theory of spatial relations, and specifically of locative expressions, must take all structures that might arise in both modalities into account before it can generalize over the human language faculty.
  • Petrovic, P., Kalso, E., Petersson, K. M., Andersson, J., Fransson, P., & Ingvar, M. (2010). A prefrontal non-opioid mechanism in placebo analgesia. Pain, 150, 59-65. doi:10.1016/j.pain.2010.03.011.

    Abstract

    ehavioral studies have suggested that placebo analgesia is partly mediated by the endogenous opioid system. Expanding on these results we have shown that the opioid-receptor-rich rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC) is activated in both placebo and opioid analgesia. However, there are also differences between the two treatments. While opioids have direct pharmacological effects, acting on the descending pain inhibitory system, placebo analgesia depends on neocortical top-down mechanisms. An important difference may be that expectations are met to a lesser extent in placebo treatment as compared with a specific treatment, yielding a larger error signal. As these processes previously have been shown to influence other types of perceptual experiences, we hypothesized that they also may drive placebo analgesia. Imaging studies suggest that lateral orbitofrontal cortex (lObfc) and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (vlPFC) are involved in processing expectation and error signals. We re-analyzed two independent functional imaging experiments related to placebo analgesia and emotional placebo to probe for a differential processing in these regions during placebo treatment vs. opioid treatment and to test if this activity is associated with the placebo response. In the first dataset lObfc and vlPFC showed an enhanced activation in placebo analgesia vs. opioid analgesia. Furthermore, the rACC activity co-varied with the prefrontal regions in the placebo condition specifically. A similar correlation between rACC and vlPFC was reproduced in another dataset involving emotional placebo and correlated with the degree of the placebo effect. Our results thus support that placebo is different from specific treatment with a prefrontal top-down influence on rACC.
  • Pijnacker, J., Geurts, B., Van Lambalgen, M., Buitelaar, J., & Hagoort, P. (2010). Exceptions and anomalies: An ERP study on context sensitivity in autism. Neuropsychologia, 48, 2940-2951. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.06.003.

    Abstract

    Several studies have demonstrated that people with ASD and intact language skills still have problems processing linguistic information in context. Given this evidence for reduced sensitivity to linguistic context, the question arises how contextual information is actually processed by people with ASD. In this study, we used event-related brain potentials (ERPs) to examine context sensitivity in high-functioning adults with autistic disorder (HFA) and Asperger syndrome at two levels: at the level of sentence processing and at the level of solving reasoning problems. We found that sentence context as well as reasoning context had an immediate ERP effect in adults with Asperger syndrome, as in matched controls. Both groups showed a typical N400 effect and a late positive component for the sentence conditions, and a sustained negativity for the reasoning conditions. In contrast, the HFA group demonstrated neither an N400 effect nor a sustained negativity. However, the HFA group showed a late positive component which was larger for semantically anomalous sentences than congruent sentences. Because sentence context had a modulating effect in a later phase, semantic integration is perhaps less automatic in HFA, and presumably more elaborate processes are needed to arrive at a sentence interpretation.
  • Ringersma, J., Kastens, K., Tschida, U., & Van Berkum, J. J. A. (2010). A principled approach to online publication listings and scientific resource sharing. The Code4Lib Journal, 2010(9), 2520.

    Abstract

    The Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Psycholinguistics has developed a service to manage and present the scholarly output of their researchers. The PubMan database manages publication metadata and full-texts of publications published by their scholars. All relevant information regarding a researcher’s work is brought together in this database, including supplementary materials and links to the MPI database for primary research data. The PubMan metadata is harvested into the MPI website CMS (Plone). The system developed for the creation of the publication lists, allows the researcher to create a selection of the harvested data in a variety of formats.
  • De Ruiter, J. P., Noordzij, M. L., Newman-Norlund, S., Hagoort, P., Levinson, S. C., & Toni, I. (2010). Exploring the cognitive infrastructure of communication. Interaction studies, 11, 51-77. doi:10.1075/is.11.1.05rui.

    Abstract

    Human communication is often thought about in terms of transmitted messages in a conventional code like a language. But communication requires a specialized interactive intelligence. Senders have to be able to perform recipient design, while receivers need to be able to do intention recognition, knowing that recipient design has taken place. To study this interactive intelligence in the lab, we developed a new task that taps directly into the underlying abilities to communicate in the absence of a conventional code. We show that subjects are remarkably successful communicators under these conditions, especially when senders get feedback from receivers. Signaling is accomplished by the manner in which an instrumental action is performed, such that instrumentally dysfunctional components of an action are used to convey communicative intentions. The findings have important implications for the nature of the human communicative infrastructure, and the task opens up a line of experimentation on human communication.
  • Simanova, I., Van Gerven, M., Oostenveld, R., & Hagoort, P. (2010). Identifying object categories from event-related EEG: Toward decoding of conceptual representations. Plos One, 5(12), E14465. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0014465.

    Abstract

    Multivariate pattern analysis is a technique that allows the decoding of conceptual information such as the semantic category of a perceived object from neuroimaging data. Impressive single-trial classification results have been reported in studies that used fMRI. Here, we investigate the possibility to identify conceptual representations from event-related EEG based on the presentation of an object in different modalities: its spoken name, its visual representation and its written name. We used Bayesian logistic regression with a multivariate Laplace prior for classification. Marked differences in classification performance were observed for the tested modalities. Highest accuracies (89% correctly classified trials) were attained when classifying object drawings. In auditory and orthographical modalities, results were lower though still significant for some subjects. The employed classification method allowed for a precise temporal localization of the features that contributed to the performance of the classifier for three modalities. These findings could help to further understand the mechanisms underlying conceptual representations. The study also provides a first step towards the use of concept decoding in the context of real-time brain-computer interface applications.
  • Snijders, T. M., Petersson, K. M., & Hagoort, P. (2010). Effective connectivity of cortical and subcortical regions during unification of sentence structure. NeuroImage, 52, 1633-1644. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.05.035.

    Abstract

    In a recent fMRI study we showed that left posterior middle temporal gyrus (LpMTG) subserves the retrieval of a word's lexical-syntactic properties from the mental lexicon (long-term memory), while left posterior inferior frontal gyrus (LpIFG) is involved in unifying (on-line integration of) this information into a sentence structure (Snijders et al., 2009). In addition, the right IFG, right MTG, and the right striatum were involved in the unification process. Here we report results from a psychophysical interactions (PPI) analysis in which we investigated the effective connectivity between LpIFG and LpMTG during unification, and how the right hemisphere areas and the striatum are functionally connected to the unification network. LpIFG and LpMTG both showed enhanced connectivity during the unification process with a region slightly superior to our previously reported LpMTG. Right IFG better predicted right temporal activity when unification processes were more strongly engaged, just as LpIFG better predicted left temporal activity. Furthermore, the striatum showed enhanced coupling to LpIFG and LpMTG during unification. We conclude that bilateral inferior frontal and posterior temporal regions are functionally connected during sentence-level unification. Cortico-subcortical connectivity patterns suggest cooperation between inferior frontal and striatal regions in performing unification operations on lexical-syntactic representations retrieved from LpMTG.
  • Uddén, J., Folia, V., & Petersson, K. M. (2010). The neuropharmacology of implicit learning. Current Neuropharmacology, 8, 367-381. doi:10.2174/157015910793358178.

    Abstract

    Two decades of pharmacologic research on the human capacity to implicitly acquire knowledge as well as cognitive skills and procedures have yielded surprisingly few conclusive insights. We review the empirical literature of the neuropharmacology of implicit learning. We evaluate the findings in the context of relevant computational models related to neurotransmittors such as dopamine, serotonin, acetylcholine and noradrenalin. These include models for reinforcement learning, sequence production, and categorization. We conclude, based on the reviewed literature, that one can predict improved implicit acquisition by moderately elevated dopamine levels and impaired implicit acquisition by moderately decreased dopamine levels. These effects are most prominent in the dorsal striatum. This is supported by a range of behavioral tasks in the empirical literature. Similar predictions can be made for serotonin, although there is yet a lack of support in the literature for serotonin involvement in classical implicit learning tasks. There is currently a lack of evidence for a role of the noradrenergic and cholinergic systems in implicit and related forms of learning. GABA modulators, including benzodiazepines, seem to affect implicit learning in a complex manner and further research is needed. Finally, we identify allosteric AMPA receptors modulators as a potentially interesting target for future investigation of the neuropharmacology of procedural and implicit learning.
  • Van Alphen, P. M., & Van Berkum, J. J. A. (2010). Is there pain in champagne? Semantic involvement of words within words during sense-making. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 22, 2618-2626. doi:10.1162/jocn.2009.21336.

    Abstract

    In an ERP experiment, we examined whether listeners, when making sense of spoken utterances, take into account the meaning of spurious words that are embedded in longer words, either at their onsets (e. g., pie in pirate) or at their offsets (e. g., pain in champagne). In the experiment, Dutch listeners heard Dutch words with initial or final embeddings presented in a sentence context that did or did not support the meaning of the embedded word, while equally supporting the longer carrier word. The N400 at the carrier words was modulated by the semantic fit of the embedded words, indicating that listeners briefly relate the meaning of initial-and final-embedded words to the sentential context, even though these words were not intended by the speaker. These findings help us understand the dynamics of initial sense-making and its link to lexical activation. In addition, they shed new light on the role of lexical competition and the debate concerning the lexical activation of final-embedded words.
  • Van Leeuwen, T. M., Petersson, K. M., & Hagoort, P. (2010). Synaesthetic colour in the brain: Beyond colour areas. A functional magnetic resonance imaging study of synaesthetes and matched controls. PLoS One, 5(8), E12074. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0012074.

    Abstract

    Background: In synaesthesia, sensations in a particular modality cause additional experiences in a second, unstimulated modality (e.g., letters elicit colour). Understanding how synaesthesia is mediated in the brain can help to understand normal processes of perceptual awareness and multisensory integration. In several neuroimaging studies, enhanced brain activity for grapheme-colour synaesthesia has been found in ventral-occipital areas that are also involved in real colour processing. Our question was whether the neural correlates of synaesthetically induced colour and real colour experience are truly shared. Methodology/Principal Findings: First, in a free viewing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiment, we located main effects of synaesthesia in left superior parietal lobule and in colour related areas. In the left superior parietal lobe, individual differences between synaesthetes (projector-associator distinction) also influenced brain activity, confirming the importance of the left superior parietal lobe for synaesthesia. Next, we applied a repetition suppression paradigm in fMRI, in which a decrease in the BOLD (blood-oxygenated-level-dependent) response is generally observed for repeated stimuli. We hypothesized that synaesthetically induced colours would lead to a reduction in BOLD response for subsequently presented real colours, if the neural correlates were overlapping. We did find BOLD suppression effects induced by synaesthesia, but not within the colour areas. Conclusions/Significance: Because synaesthetically induced colours were not able to suppress BOLD effects for real colour, we conclude that the neural correlates of synaesthetic colour experience and real colour experience are not fully shared. We propose that synaesthetic colour experiences are mediated by higher-order visual pathways that lie beyond the scope of classical, ventral-occipital visual areas. Feedback from these areas, in which the left parietal cortex is likely to play an important role, may induce V4 activation and the percept of synaesthetic colour.
  • Van Berkum, J. J. A. (2010). The brain is a prediction machine that cares about good and bad - Any implications for neuropragmatics? Italian Journal of Linguistics, 22, 181-208.

    Abstract

    Experimental pragmatics asks how people construct contextualized meaning in communication. So what does it mean for this field to add neuroas a prefix to its name? After analyzing the options for any subfield of cognitive science, I argue that neuropragmatics can and occasionally should go beyond the instrumental use of EEG or fMRI and beyond mapping classic theoretical distinctions onto Brodmann areas. In particular, if experimental pragmatics ‘goes neuro’, it should take into account that the brain evolved as a control system that helps its bearer negotiate a highly complex, rapidly changing and often not so friendly environment. In this context, the ability to predict current unknowns, and to rapidly tell good from bad, are essential ingredients of processing. Using insights from non-linguistic areas of cognitive neuroscience as well as from EEG research on utterance comprehension, I argue that for a balanced development of experimental pragmatics, these two characteristics of the brain cannot be ignored.
  • De Vries, M., Barth, A. C. R., Maiworm, S., Knecht, S., Zwitserlood, P., & Flöel, A. (2010). Electrical stimulation of Broca’s area enhances implicit learning of an artificial grammar. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 22, 2427-2436. doi:10.1162/jocn.2009.21385.

    Abstract

    Artificial grammar learning constitutes a well-established model for the acquisition of grammatical knowledge in a natural setting. Previous neuroimaging studies demonstrated that Broca's area (left BA 44/45) is similarly activated by natural syntactic processing and artificial grammar learning. The current study was conducted to investigate the causal relationship between Broca's area and learning of an artificial grammar by means of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). Thirty-eight healthy subjects participated in a between-subject design, with either anodal tDCS (20 min, 1 mA) or sham stimulation, over Broca's area during the acquisition of an artificial grammar. Performance during the acquisition phase, presented as a working memory task, was comparable between groups. In the subsequent classification task, detecting syntactic violations, and specifically, those where no cues to superficial similarity were available, improved significantly after anodal tDCS, resulting in an overall better performance. A control experiment where 10 subjects received anodal tDCS over an area unrelated to artificial grammar learning further supported the specificity of these effects to Broca's area. We conclude that Broca's area is specifically involved in rule-based knowledge, and here, in an improved ability to detect syntactic violations. The results cannot be explained by better tDCS-induced working memory performance during the acquisition phase. This is the first study that demonstrates that tDCS may facilitate acquisition of grammatical knowledge, a finding of potential interest for rehabilitation of aphasia.
  • De Vries, M., Ulte, C., Zwitserlood, P., Szymanski, B., & Knecht, S. (2010). Increasing dopamine levels in the brain improves feedback-based procedural learning in healthy participants: An artificial-grammar-learning experiment. Neuropsychologia, 48, 3193-3197. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.06.024.

    Abstract

    Recently, an increasing number of studies have suggested a role for the basal ganglia and related dopamine inputs in procedural learning, specifically when learning occurs through trial-by-trial feedback (Shohamy, Myers, Kalanithi, & Gluck. (2008). Basal ganglia and dopamine contributions to probabilistic category learning. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 32, 219–236). A necessary relationship has however only been demonstrated in patient studies. In the present study, we show for the first time that increasing dopamine levels in the brain improves the gradual acquisition of complex information in healthy participants. We implemented two artificial-grammar-learning tasks, one with and one without performance feedback. Learning was improved after levodopa intake for the feedback-based learning task only, suggesting that dopamine plays a specific role in trial-by-trial feedback-based learning. This provides promising directions for future studies on dopaminergic modulation of cognitive functioning.
  • Willems, R. M., De Boer, M., De Ruiter, J. P., Noordzij, M. L., Hagoort, P., & Toni, I. (2010). A dissociation between linguistic and communicative abilities in the human brain. Psychological Science, 21, 8-14. doi:10.1177/0956797609355563.

    Abstract

    Although language is an effective vehicle for communication, it is unclear how linguistic and communicative abilities relate to each other. Some researchers have argued that communicative message generation involves perspective taking (mentalizing), and—crucially—that mentalizing depends on language. We employed a verbal communication paradigm to directly test whether the generation of a communicative action relies on mentalizing and whether the cerebral bases of communicative message generation are distinct from parts of cortex sensitive to linguistic variables. We found that dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, a brain area consistently associated with mentalizing, was sensitive to the communicative intent of utterances, irrespective of linguistic difficulty. In contrast, left inferior frontal cortex, an area known to be involved in language, was sensitive to the linguistic demands of utterances, but not to communicative intent. These findings show that communicative and linguistic abilities rely on cerebrally (and computationally) distinct mechanisms
  • Willems, R. M., Peelen, M. V., & Hagoort, P. (2010). Cerebral lateralization of face-selective and body-selective visual areas depends on handedness. Cerebral Cortex, 20, 1719-1725. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhp234.

    Abstract

    The left-hemisphere dominance for language is a core example of the functional specialization of the cerebral hemispheres. The degree of left-hemisphere dominance for language depends on hand preference: Whereas the majority of right-handers show left-hemispheric language lateralization, this number is reduced in left-handers. Here, we assessed whether handedness analogously has an influence upon lateralization in the visual system. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we localized 4 more or less specialized extrastriate areas in left- and right-handers, namely fusiform face area (FFA), extrastriate body area (EBA), fusiform body area (FBA), and human motion area (human middle temporal [hMT]). We found that lateralization of FFA and EBA depends on handedness: These areas were right lateralized in right-handers but not in left-handers. A similar tendency was observed in FBA but not in hMT. We conclude that the relationship between handedness and hemispheric lateralization extends to functionally lateralized parts of visual cortex, indicating a general coupling between cerebral lateralization and handedness. Our findings indicate that hemispheric specialization is not fixed but can vary considerably across individuals even in areas engaged relatively early in the visual system.
  • Willems, R. M., Hagoort, P., & Casasanto, D. (2010). Body-specific representations of action verbs: Neural evidence from right- and left-handers. Psychological Science, 21, 67-74. doi:10.1177/0956797609354072.

    Abstract

    According to theories of embodied cognition, understanding a verb like throw involves unconsciously simulating the action of throwing, using areas of the brain that support motor planning. If understanding action words involves mentally simulating one’s own actions, then the neurocognitive representation of word meanings should differ for people with different kinds of bodies, who perform actions in systematically different ways. In a test of the body-specificity hypothesis, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to compare premotor activity correlated with action verb understanding in right- and left-handers. Righthanders preferentially activated the left premotor cortex during lexical decisions on manual-action verbs (compared with nonmanual-action verbs), whereas left-handers preferentially activated right premotor areas. This finding helps refine theories of embodied semantics, suggesting that implicit mental simulation during language processing is body specific: Right- and lefthanders, who perform actions differently, use correspondingly different areas of the brain for representing action verb meanings.
  • Willems, R. M., Toni, I., Hagoort, P., & Casasanto, D. (2010). Neural dissociations between action verb understanding and motor imagery. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 22(10), 2387-2400. doi:10.1162/jocn.2009.21386.

    Abstract

    According to embodied theories of language, people understand a verb like throw, at least in part, by mentally simulating throwing. This implicit simulation is often assumed to be similar or identical to motor imagery. Here we used fMRI totest whether implicit simulations of actions during language understanding involve the same cortical motor regions as explicit motor imagery Healthy participants were presented with verbs related to hand actions (e.g., to throw) and nonmanual actions (e.g., to kneel). They either read these verbs (lexical decision task) or actively imagined performing the actions named by the verbs (imagery task). Primary motor cortex showd effector-specific activation during imagery, but not during lexical decision. Parts of premotor cortex distinguished manual from nonmanual actions during both lexical decision and imagery, but there was no overlap or correlation between regions activated during the two tasks. These dissociations suggest that implicit simulation and explicit imagery cued by action verbs may involve different types of motor representations and that the construct of “mental simulation” should be distinguished from “mental imagery” in embodied theories of language.
  • Xiang, H.-D., Fonteijn, H. M., Norris, D. G., & Hagoort, P. (2010). Topographical functional connectivity pattern in the perisylvian language networks. Cerebral Cortex, 20, 549-560. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhp119.

    Abstract

    We performed a resting-state functional connectivity study to investigate directly the functional correlations within the perisylvian language networks by seeding from 3 subregions of Broca's complex (pars opercularis, pars triangularis, and pars orbitalis) and their right hemisphere homologues. A clear topographical functional connectivity pattern in the left middle frontal, parietal, and temporal areas was revealed for the 3 left seeds. This is the first demonstration that a functional connectivity topology can be observed in the perisylvian language networks. The results support the assumption of the functional division for phonology, syntax, and semantics of Broca's complex as proposed by the memory, unification, and control (MUC) model and indicated a topographical functional organization in the perisylvian language networks, which suggests a possible division of labor for phonological, syntactic, and semantic function in the left frontal, parietal, and temporal areas.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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