Publications

Displaying 1 - 100 of 118
  • Acheson, D. J. (2013). Signatures of response conflict monitoring in language production. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 94, 214-215. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.09.106.
  • Acheson, D. J., & Hagoort, P. (2013). Stimulating the brain's language network: Syntactic ambiguity resolution after TMS to the IFG and MTG. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 25(10), 1664-1677. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_00430.

    Abstract

    The posterior middle temporal gyrus (MTG) and inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) are two critical nodes of the brain's language network. Previous neuroimaging evidence has supported a dissociation in language comprehension in which parts of the MTG are involved in the retrieval of lexical syntactic information and the IFG is involved in unification operations that maintain, select, and integrate multiple sources of information over time. In the present investigation, we tested for causal evidence of this dissociation by modulating activity in IFG and MTG using an offline TMS procedure: continuous theta-burst stimulation. Lexical–syntactic retrieval was manipulated by using sentences with and without a temporarily word-class (noun/verb) ambiguity (e.g., run). In one group of participants, TMS was applied to the IFG and MTG, and in a control group, no TMS was applied. Eye movements were recorded and quantified at two critical sentence regions: a temporarily ambiguous region and a disambiguating region. Results show that stimulation of the IFG led to a modulation of the ambiguity effect (ambiguous–unambiguous) at the disambiguating sentence region in three measures: first fixation durations, total reading times, and regressive eye movements into the region. Both IFG and MTG stimulation modulated the ambiguity effect for total reading times in the temporarily ambiguous sentence region relative to a control group. The current results demonstrate that an offline repetitive TMS protocol can have influences at a different point in time during online processing and provide causal evidence for IFG involvement in unification operations during sentence comprehension.
  • Andics, A., McQueen, J. M., & Petersson, K. M. (2013). Mean-based neural coding of voices. NeuroImage, 79, 351-360. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.05.002.

    Abstract

    The social significance of recognizing the person who talks to us is obvious, but the neural mechanisms that mediate talker identification are unclear. Regions along the bilateral superior temporal sulcus (STS) and the inferior frontal cortex (IFC) of the human brain are selective for voices, and they are sensitive to rapid voice changes. Although it has been proposed that voice recognition is supported by prototype-centered voice representations, the involvement of these category-selective cortical regions in the neural coding of such "mean voices" has not previously been demonstrated. Using fMRI in combination with a voice identity learning paradigm, we show that voice-selective regions are involved in the mean-based coding of voice identities. Voice typicality is encoded on a supra-individual level in the right STS along a stimulus-dependent, identity-independent (i.e., voice-acoustic) dimension, and on an intra-individual level in the right IFC along a stimulus-independent, identity-dependent (i.e., voice identity) dimension. Voice recognition therefore entails at least two anatomically separable stages, each characterized by neural mechanisms that reference the central tendencies of voice categories.
  • Asaridou, S. S., & McQueen, J. M. (2013). Speech and music shape the listening brain: Evidence for shared domain-general mechanisms. Frontiers in Psychology, 4: 321. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00321.

    Abstract

    Are there bi-directional influences between speech perception and music perception? An answer to this question is essential for understanding the extent to which the speech and music that we hear are processed by domain-general auditory processes and/or by distinct neural auditory mechanisms. This review summarizes a large body of behavioral and neuroscientific findings which suggest that the musical experience of trained musicians does modulate speech processing, and a sparser set of data, largely on pitch processing, which suggest in addition that linguistic experience, in particular learning a tone language, modulates music processing. Although research has focused mostly on music on speech effects, we argue that both directions of influence need to be studied, and conclude that the picture which thus emerges is one of mutual interaction across domains. In particular, it is not simply that experience with spoken language has some effects on music perception, and vice versa, but that because of shared domain-general subcortical and cortical networks, experiences in both domains influence behavior in both domains.
  • De Boer, M., Toni, I., & Willems, R. M. (2013). What drives successful verbal communication? Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7: 622. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2013.00622.

    Abstract

    There is a vast amount of potential mappings between behaviors and intentions in communication: a behavior can indicate a multitude of different intentions, and the same intention can be communicated with a variety of behaviors. Humans routinely solve these many-to-many referential problems when producing utterances for an Addressee. This ability might rely on social cognitive skills, for instance, the ability to manipulate unobservable summary variables to disambiguate ambiguous behavior of other agents (“mentalizing”) and the drive to invest resources into changing and understanding the mental state of other agents (“communicative motivation”). Alternatively, the ambiguities of verbal communicative interactions might be solved by general-purpose cognitive abilities that process cues that are incidentally associated with the communicative interaction. In this study, we assess these possibilities by testing which cognitive traits account for communicative success during a verbal referential task. Cognitive traits were assessed with psychometric scores quantifying motivation, mentalizing abilities, and general-purpose cognitive abilities, taxing abstract visuo-spatial abilities. Communicative abilities of participants were assessed by using an on-line interactive task that required a speaker to verbally convey a concept to an Addressee. The communicative success of the utterances was quantified by measuring how frequently a number of Evaluators would infer the correct concept. Speakers with high motivational and general-purpose cognitive abilities generated utterances that were more easily interpreted. These findings extend to the domain of verbal communication the notion that motivational and cognitive factors influence the human ability to rapidly converge on shared communicative innovations.
  • Campisi, E., & Ozyurek, A. (2013). Iconicity as a communicative strategy: Recipient design in multimodal demonstrations for adults and children. Journal of Pragmatics, 47, 14-27. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2012.12.007.

    Abstract

    Humans are the only species that uses communication to teach new knowledge to novices, usually to children (Tomasello, 1999 and Csibra and Gergely, 2006). This context of communication can employ “demonstrations” and it takes place with or without the help of objects (Clark, 1996). Previous research has focused on understanding the nature of demonstrations for very young children and with objects involved. However, little is known about the strategies used in demonstrating an action to an older child in comparison to another adult and without the use of objects, i.e., with gestures only. We tested if during demonstration of an action speakers use different degrees of iconicity in gestures for a child compared to an adult. 18 Italian subjects described to a camera how to make coffee imagining the listener as a 12-year-old child, a novice or an expert adult. While speech was found more informative both for the novice adult and for the child compared to the expert adult, the rate of iconic gestures increased and they were more informative and bigger only for the child compared to both of the adult conditions. Iconicity in gestures can be a powerful communicative strategy in teaching new knowledge to children in demonstrations and this is in line with claims that it can be used as a scaffolding device in grounding knowledge in experience (Perniss et al., 2010).
  • Cappuccio, M. L., Chu, M., & Kita, S. (2013). Pointing as an instrumental gesture: Gaze representation through indication. Humana.Mente: Journal of Philosophical Studies, 24, 125-149.

    Abstract

    We call those gestures “instrumental” that can enhance certain thinking processes of an agent by offering him representational models of his actions in a virtual space of imaginary performative possibilities. We argue that pointing is an instrumental gesture in that it represents geometrical information on one’s own gaze direction (i.e., a spatial model for attentional/ocular fixation/orientation), and provides a ritualized template for initiating gaze coordination and joint attention. We counter two possible objections, asserting respectively that the representational content of pointing is not constitutive, but derived from language, and that pointing directly solicits gaze coordination, without representing it. We consider two studies suggesting that attention and spatial perception are actively modified by one’s own pointing activity: the first study shows that pointing gestures help children link sets of objects to their corresponding number words; the second, that adults are faster and more accurate in counting when they point.
  • Cristia, A., Dupoux, E., Hakuno, Y., Lloyd-Fox, S., Schuetze, M., Kivits, J., Bergvelt, T., Van Gelder, M., Filippin, L., Charron, S., & Minagawa-Kawai, Y. (2013). An online database of infant functional Near InfraRed Spectroscopy studies: A community-augmented systematic review. PLoS One, 8(3): e58906. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0058906.

    Abstract

    Until recently, imaging the infant brain was very challenging. Functional Near InfraRed Spectroscopy (fNIRS) is a promising, relatively novel technique, whose use is rapidly expanding. As an emergent field, it is particularly important to share methodological knowledge to ensure replicable and robust results. In this paper, we present a community-augmented database which will facilitate precisely this exchange. We tabulated articles and theses reporting empirical fNIRS research carried out on infants below three years of age along several methodological variables. The resulting spreadsheet has been uploaded in a format allowing individuals to continue adding new results, and download the most recent version of the table. Thus, this database is ideal to carry out systematic reviews. We illustrate its academic utility by focusing on the factors affecting three key variables: infant attrition, the reliability of oxygenated and deoxygenated responses, and signal-to-noise ratios. We then discuss strengths and weaknesses of the DBIfNIRS, and conclude by suggesting a set of simple guidelines aimed to facilitate methodological convergence through the standardization of reports.
  • Cristia, A. (2013). Input to language: The phonetics of infant-directed speech. Language and Linguistics Compass, 7, 157-170. doi:10.1111/lnc3.12015.

    Abstract

    Over the first year of life, infant perception changes radically as the child learns the phonology of the ambient language from the speech she is exposed to. Since infant-directed speech attracts the child's attention more than other registers, it is necessary to describe that input in order to understand language development, and to address questions of learnability. In this review, evidence from corpora analyses, experimental studies, and observational paradigms is brought together to outline the first comprehensive empirical picture of infant-directed speech and its effects on language acquisition. The ensuing landscape suggests that infant-directed speech provides an emotionally and linguistically rich input to language acquisition

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  • Cristia, A., Mielke, J., Daland, R., & Peperkamp, S. (2013). Similarity in the generalization of implicitly learned sound patterns. Journal of Laboratory Phonology, 4(2), 259-285.

    Abstract

    A core property of language is the ability to generalize beyond observed examples. In two experiments, we explore how listeners generalize implicitly learned sound patterns to new nonwords and to new sounds, with the goal of shedding light on how similarity affects treatment of potential generalization targets. During the exposure phase, listeners heard nonwords whose onset consonant was restricted to a subset of a natural class (e.g., /d g v z Z/). During the test phase, listeners were presented with new nonwords and asked to judge how frequently they had been presented before; some of the test items began with a consonant from the exposure set (e.g., /d/), and some began with novel consonants with varying relations to the exposure set (e.g., /b/, which is highly similar to all onsets in the training set; /t/, which is highly similar to one of the training onsets; and /p/, which is less similar than the other two). The exposure onset was rated most frequent, indicating that participants encoded onset attestation in the exposure set, and generalized it to new nonwords. Participants also rated novel consonants as somewhat frequent, indicating generalization to onsets that did not occur in the exposure phase. While generalization could be accounted for in terms of featural distance, it was insensitive to natural class structure. Generalization to new sounds was predicted better by models requiring prior linguistic knowledge (either traditional distinctive features or articulatory phonetic information) than by a model based on a linguistically naïve measure of acoustic similarity.
  • Debreslioska, S., Ozyurek, A., Gullberg, M., & Perniss, P. M. (2013). Gestural viewpoint signals referent accessibility. Discourse Processes, 50(7), 431-456. doi:10.1080/0163853x.2013.824286.

    Abstract

    The tracking of entities in discourse is known to be a bimodal phenomenon. Speakers achieve cohesion in speech by alternating between full lexical forms, pronouns, and zero anaphora as they track referents. They also track referents in co-speech gestures. In this study, we explored how viewpoint is deployed in reference tracking, focusing on representations of animate entities in German narrative discourse. We found that gestural viewpoint systematically varies depending on discourse context. Speakers predominantly use character viewpoint in maintained contexts and observer viewpoint in reintroduced contexts. Thus, gestural viewpoint seems to function as a cohesive device in narrative discourse. The findings expand on and provide further evidence for the coordination between speech and gesture on the discourse level that is crucial to understanding the tight link between the two modalities.
  • Dolscheid, S., Shayan, S., Majid, A., & Casasanto, D. (2013). The thickness of musical pitch: Psychophysical evidence for linguistic relativity. Psychological Science, 24, 613-621. doi:10.1177/0956797612457374.

    Abstract

    Do people who speak different languages think differently, even when they are not using language? To find out, we used nonlinguistic psychophysical tasks to compare mental representations of musical pitch in native speakers of Dutch and Farsi. Dutch speakers describe pitches as high (hoog) or low (laag), whereas Farsi speakers describe pitches as thin (na-zok) or thick (koloft). Differences in language were reflected in differences in performance on two pitch-reproduction tasks, even though the tasks used simple, nonlinguistic stimuli and responses. To test whether experience using language influences mental representations of pitch, we trained native Dutch speakers to describe pitch in terms of thickness, as Farsi speakers do. After the training, Dutch speakers’ performance on a nonlinguistic psychophysical task resembled the performance of native Farsi speakers. People who use different linguistic space-pitch metaphors also think about pitch differently. Language can play a causal role in shaping nonlinguistic representations of musical pitch.

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  • Eisner, F., Melinger, A., & Weber, A. (2013). Constraints on the transfer of perceptual learning in accented speech. Frontiers in Psychology, 4: 148. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00148.

    Abstract

    The perception of speech sounds can be re-tuned rapidly through a mechanism of lexically-driven learning (Norris et al 2003, Cogn.Psych. 47). Here we investigated this type of learning for English voiced stop consonants which are commonly de-voiced in word final position by Dutch learners of English . Specifically, this study asked under which conditions the change in pre-lexical representation encodes phonological information about the position of the critical sound within a word. After exposure to a Dutch learner’s productions of de-voiced stops in word-final position (but not in any other positions), British English listeners showed evidence of perceptual learning in a subsequent cross-modal priming task, where auditory primes with voiceless final stops (e.g., ‘seat’), facilitated recognition of visual targets with voiced final stops (e.g., SEED). This learning generalized to test pairs where the critical contrast was in word-initial position, e.g. auditory primes such as ‘town’ facilitated recognition of visual targets like DOWN (Experiment 1). Control listeners, who had not heard any stops by the speaker during exposure, showed no learning effects. The generalization to word-initial position did not occur when participants had also heard correctly voiced, word-initial stops during exposure (Experiment 2), and when the speaker was a native BE speaker who mimicked the word-final devoicing (Experiment 3). These results suggest that word position can be encoded in the pre-lexical adjustment to the accented phoneme contrast. Lexcially-guided feedback, distributional properties of the input, and long-term representations of accents all appear to modulate the pre-lexical re-tuning of phoneme categories.
  • Erb, J., Henry, M. J., Eisner, F., & Obleser, J. (2013). The brain dynamics of rapid perceptual adaptation to adverse listening conditions. The Journal of Neuroscience, 33, 10688-10697. doi:10.1523/​JNEUROSCI.4596-12.2013.

    Abstract

    Listeners show a remarkable ability to quickly adjust to degraded speech input. Here, we aimed to identify the neural mechanisms of such short-term perceptual adaptation. In a sparse-sampling, cardiac-gated functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) acquisition, human listeners heard and repeated back 4-band-vocoded sentences (in which the temporal envelope of the acoustic signal is preserved, while spectral information is highly degraded). Clear-speech trials were included as baseline. An additional fMRI experiment on amplitude modulation rate discrimination quantified the convergence of neural mechanisms that subserve coping with challenging listening conditions for speech and non-speech. First, the degraded speech task revealed an “executive” network (comprising the anterior insula and anterior cingulate cortex), parts of which were also activated in the non-speech discrimination task. Second, trial-by-trial fluctuations in successful comprehension of degraded speech drove hemodynamic signal change in classic “language” areas (bilateral temporal cortices). Third, as listeners perceptually adapted to degraded speech, downregulation in a cortico-striato-thalamo-cortical circuit was observable. The present data highlight differential upregulation and downregulation in auditory–language and executive networks, respectively, with important subcortical contributions when successfully adapting to a challenging listening situation.
  • Gentner, D., Ozyurek, A., Gurcanli, O., & Goldin-Meadow, S. (2013). Spatial language facilitates spatial cognition: Evidence from children who lack language input. Cognition, 127, 318-330. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2013.01.003.

    Abstract

    Does spatial language influence how people think about space? To address this question, we observed children who did not know a conventional language, and tested their performance on nonlinguistic spatial tasks. We studied deaf children living in Istanbul whose hearing losses prevented them from acquiring speech and whose hearing parents had not exposed them to sign. Lacking a conventional language, the children used gestures, called homesigns, to communicate. In Study 1, we asked whether homesigners used gesture to convey spatial relations, and found that they did not. In Study 2, we tested a new group of homesigners on a Spatial Mapping Task, and found that they performed significantly worse than hearing Turkish children who were matched to the deaf children on another cognitive task. The absence of spatial language thus went hand-in-hand with poor performance on the nonlinguistic spatial task, pointing to the importance of spatial language in thinking about space.
  • Gross, J., Baillet, S., Barnes, G. R., Henson, R. N., Hillebrand, A., Jensen, O., Jerbi, K., Litvak, V., Maess, B., Oostenveld, R., Parkkonen, L., Taylor, J. R., Van Wassenhove, V., Wibral, M., & Schoffelen, J.-M. (2013). Good practice for conducting and reporting MEG research. NeuroImage, 65, 349-363. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.10.001.

    Abstract

    Magnetoencephalographic (MEG) recordings are a rich source of information about the neural dynamics underlying cognitive processes in the brain, with excellent temporal and good spatial resolution. In recent years there have been considerable advances in MEG hardware developments as well as methodological developments. Sophisticated analysis techniques are now routinely applied and continuously improved, leading to fascinating insights into the intricate dynamics of neural processes. However, the rapidly increasing level of complexity of the different steps in a MEG study make it difficult for novices, and sometimes even for experts, to stay aware of possible limitations and caveats. Furthermore, the complexity of MEG data acquisition and data analysis requires special attention when describing MEG studies in publications, in order to facilitate interpretation and reproduction of the results. This manuscript aims at making recommendations for a number of important data acquisition and data analysis steps and suggests details that should be specified in manuscripts reporting MEG studies. These recommendations will hopefully serve as guidelines that help to strengthen the position of the MEG research community within the field of neuroscience, and may foster discussion within the community in order to further enhance the quality and impact of MEG research.
  • Hagoort, P. (2013). MUC (Memory, Unification, Control) and beyond. Frontiers in Psychology, 4: 416. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00416.

    Abstract

    A neurobiological model of language is discussed that overcomes the shortcomings of the classical Wernicke-Lichtheim-Geschwind model. It is based on a subdivision of language processing into three components: Memory, Unification, and Control. The functional components as well as the neurobiological underpinnings of the model are discussed. In addition, the need for extension of the model beyond the classical core regions for language is shown. Attentional networks as well as networks for inferential processing are crucial to realize language comprehension beyond single word processing and beyond decoding propositional content. It is shown that this requires the dynamic interaction between multiple brain regions.
  • Hagoort, P., & Meyer, A. S. (2013). What belongs together goes together: the speaker-hearer perspective. A commentary on MacDonald's PDC account. Frontiers in Psychology, 4: 228. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00228.

    Abstract

    First paragraph: MacDonald (2013) proposes that distributional properties of language and processing biases in language comprehension can to a large extent be attributed to consequences of the language production process. In essence, the account is derived from the principle of least effort that was formulated by Zipf, among others (Zipf, 1949; Levelt, 2013). However, in Zipf's view the outcome of the least effort principle was a compromise between least effort for the speaker and least effort for the listener, whereas MacDonald puts most of the burden on the production process.
  • Holler, J., Turner, K., & Varcianna, T. (2013). It's on the tip of my fingers: Co-speech gestures during lexical retrieval in different social contexts. Language and Cognitive Processes, 28(10), 1509-1518. doi:10.1080/01690965.2012.698289.

    Abstract

    The Lexical Retrieval Hypothesis proposes that gestures function at the level of speech production, aiding in the retrieval of lexical items from the mental lexicon. However, empirical evidence for this account is mixed, and some critics argue that a more likely function of gestures during lexical retrieval is a communicative one. The present study was designed to test these predictions against each other by keeping lexical retrieval difficulty constant while varying social context. Participants' gestures were analysed during tip of the tongue experiences when communicating with a partner face-to-face (FTF), while being separated by a screen, or on their own by speaking into a voice recorder. The results show that participants in the FTF context produced significantly more representational gestures than participants in the solitary condition. This suggests that, even in the specific context of lexical retrieval difficulties, representational gestures appear to play predominantly a communicative role.

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  • Kaltwasser, L., Ries, S., Sommer, W., Knight, R., & Willems, R. M. (2013). Independence of valence and reward in emotional word processing: Electrophysiological evidence. Frontiers in Psychology, 4: 168. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00168.

    Abstract

    Both emotion and reward are primary modulators of cognition: Emotional word content enhances word processing, and reward expectancy similarly amplifies cognitive processing from the perceptual up to the executive control level. Here, we investigate how these primary regulators of cognition interact. We studied how the anticipation of gain or loss modulates the neural time course (event-related potentials, ERPs) related to processing of emotional words. Participants performed a semantic categorization task on emotional and neutral words, which were preceded by a cue indicating that performance could lead to monetary gain or loss. Emotion-related and reward-related effects occurred in different time windows, did not interact statistically, and showed different topographies. This speaks for an independence of reward expectancy and the processing of emotional word content. Therefore, privileged processing given to emotionally valenced words seems immune to short-term modulation of reward. Models of language comprehension should be able to incorporate effects of reward and emotion on language processing, and the current study argues for an architecture in which reward and emotion do not share a common neurobiological mechanism
  • Kominsky, J. F., & Casasanto, D. (2013). Specific to whose body? Perspective taking and the spatial mapping of valence. Frontiers in Psychology, 4: 266. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00266.

    Abstract

    People tend to associate the abstract concepts of “good” and “bad” with their fluent and disfluent sides of space, as determined by their natural handedness or by experimental manipulation (Casasanto, 2011). Here we investigated influences of spatial perspective taking on the spatialization of “good” and “bad.” In the first experiment, participants indicated where a schematically drawn cartoon character would locate “good” and “bad” stimuli. Right-handers tended to assign “good” to the right and “bad” to the left side of egocentric space when the character shared their spatial perspective, but when the character was rotated 180° this spatial mapping was reversed: good was assigned to the character’s right side, not the participant’s. The tendency to spatialize valence from the character’s perspective was stronger in the second experiment, when participants were shown a full-featured photograph of the character. In a third experiment, most participants not only spatialized “good” and “bad” from the character’s perspective, they also based their judgments on a salient attribute of the character’s body (an injured hand) rather than their own body. Taking another’s spatial perspective encourages people to compute space-valence mappings using an allocentric frame of reference, based on the fluency with which the other person could perform motor actions with their right or left hand. When people reason from their own spatial perspective, their judgments depend, in part, on the specifics of their bodies; when people reason from someone else’s perspective, their judgments may depend on the specifics of the other person’s body, instead. - See more at: http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00266
  • Kooijman, V., Junge, C., Johnson, E. K., Hagoort, P., & Cutler, A. (2013). Predictive brain signals of linguistic development. Frontiers in Psychology, 4: 25. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00025.

    Abstract

    The ability to extract word forms from continuous speech is a prerequisite for constructing a vocabulary and emerges in the first year of life. Electrophysiological (ERP) studies of speech segmentation by 9- to 12-month-old listeners in several languages have found a left-localized negativity linked to word onset as a marker of word detection. We report an ERP study showing significant evidence of speech segmentation in Dutch-learning 7-month-olds. In contrast to the left-localized negative effect reported with older infants, the observed overall mean effect had a positive polarity. Inspection of individual results revealed two participant sub-groups: a majority showing a positive-going response, and a minority showing the left negativity observed in older age groups. We retested participants at age three, on vocabulary comprehension and word and sentence production. On every test, children who at 7 months had shown the negativity associated with segmentation of words from speech outperformed those who had produced positive-going brain responses to the same input. The earlier that infants show the left-localized brain responses typically indicating detection of words in speech, the better their early childhood language skills.
  • Kristensen, L. B., Wang, L., Petersson, K. M., & Hagoort, P. (2013). The interface between language and attention: Prosodic focus marking recruits a general attention network in spoken language comprehension. Cerebral Cortex, 23, 1836-1848. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhs164.

    Abstract

    In spoken language, pitch accent can mark certain information as focus, whereby more attentional resources are allocated to the focused information. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, this study examined whether pitch accent, used for marking focus, recruited general attention networks during sentence comprehension. In a language task, we independently manipulated the prosody and semantic/pragmatic congruence of sentences. We found that semantic/pragmatic processing affected bilateral inferior and middle frontal gyrus. The prosody manipulation showed bilateral involvement of the superior/inferior parietal cortex, superior and middle temporal cortex, as well as inferior, middle, and posterior parts of the frontal cortex. We compared these regions with attention networks localized in an auditory spatial attention task. Both tasks activated bilateral superior/inferior parietal cortex, superior temporal cortex, and left precentral cortex. Furthermore, an interaction between prosody and congruence was observed in bilateral inferior parietal regions: for incongruent sentences, but not for congruent ones, there was a larger activation if the incongruent word carried a pitch accent, than if it did not. The common activations between the language task and the spatial attention task demonstrate that pitch accent activates a domain general attention network, which is sensitive to semantic/pragmatic aspects of language. Therefore, attention and language comprehension are highly interactive.

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  • Lai, V. T., & Curran, T. (2013). ERP evidence for conceptual mappings and comparison processes during the comprehension of conventional and novel metaphors. Brain and Language, 127(3), 484-496. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2013.09.010.

    Abstract

    Cognitive linguists suggest that understanding metaphors requires activation of conceptual mappings between the involved concepts. We tested whether mappings are indeed in use during metaphor comprehension, and what mapping means as a cognitive process with Event-Related Potentials. Participants read literal, conventional metaphorical, novel metaphorical, and anomalous target sentences preceded by primes with related or unrelated mappings. Experiment 1 used sentence-primes to activate related mappings, and Experiment 2 used simile-primes to induce comparison thinking. In the unprimed conditions of both experiments, metaphors elicited N400s more negative than the literals. In Experiment 1, related sentence-primes reduced the metaphor-literal N400 difference in conventional, but not in novel metaphors. In Experiment 2, related simile-primes reduced the metaphor-literal N400 difference in novel, but not clearly in conventional metaphors. We suggest that mapping as a process occurs in metaphors, and the ways in which it can be facilitated by comparison differ between conventional and novel metaphors.

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  • Lai, J., & Poletiek, F. H. (2013). How “small” is “starting small” for learning hierarchical centre-embedded structures? Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 25, 423-435. doi:10.1080/20445911.2013.779247.

    Abstract

    Hierarchical centre-embedded structures pose a large difficulty for language learners due to their complexity. A recent artificial grammar learning study (Lai & Poletiek, 2011) demonstrated a starting-small (SS) effect, i.e., staged-input and sufficient exposure to 0-level-of-embedding exemplars were the critical conditions in learning AnBn structures. The current study aims to test: (1) a more sophisticated type of SS (a gradually rather than discretely growing input), and (2) the frequency distribution of the input. The results indicate that SS optimally works under other conditional cues, such as a skewed frequency distribution with simple stimuli being more numerous than complex ones.
  • Lai, V. T., & Boroditsky, L. (2013). The immediate and chronic influence of spatio-temporal metaphors on the mental representations of time in English, Mandarin, and Mandarin-English speakers. Frontiers in Psychology, 4: 142. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00142.

    Abstract

    In this paper we examine whether experience with spatial metaphors for time has an influence on people’s representation of time. In particular we ask whether spatiotemporal metaphors can have both chronic and immediate effects on temporal thinking. In Study 1, we examine the prevalence of ego-moving representations for time in Mandarin speakers, English speakers, and Mandarin-English (ME) bilinguals. As predicted by observations in linguistic analyses, we find that Mandarin speakers are less likely to take an ego-moving perspective than are English speakers. Further, we find that ME bilinguals tested in English are less likely to take an ego-moving perspective than are English monolinguals (an effect of L1 on meaning-making in L2), and also that ME bilinguals tested in Mandarin are more likely to take an ego-moving perspective than are Mandarin monolinguals (an effect of L2 on meaning-making in L1). These findings demonstrate that habits of metaphor use in one language can influence temporal reasoning in another language, suggesting the metaphors can have a chronic effect on patterns in thought. In Study 2 we test Mandarin speakers using either horizontal or vertical metaphors in the immediate context of the task. We find that Mandarin speakers are more likely to construct front-back representations of time when understanding front-back metaphors, and more likely to construct up-down representations of time when understanding up-down metaphors. These findings demonstrate that spatiotemporal metaphors can also have an immediate influence on temporal reasoning. Taken together, these findings demonstrate that the metaphors we use to talk about time have both immediate and long-term consequences for how we conceptualize and reason about this fundamental domain of experience.
  • Larson-Prior, L., Oostenveld, R., Della Penna, S., Michalareas, G., Prior, F., Babajani-Feremi, A., Schoffelen, J.-M., Marzetti, L., de Pasquale, F., Pompeo, F. D., Stout, J., Woolrich, M., Luo, Q., Bucholz, R., Fries, P., Pizzella, V., Romani, G., Corbetta, M., & Snyder, A. (2013). Adding dynamics to the Human Connectome Project with MEG. NeuroImage, 80, 190-201. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.05.056.

    Abstract

    The Human Connectome Project (HCP) seeks to map the structural and functional connections between network elements in the human brain. Magnetoencephalography (MEG) provides a temporally rich source of information on brain network dynamics and represents one source of functional connectivity data to be provided by the HCP. High quality MEG data will be collected from 50 twin pairs both in the resting state and during performance of motor, working memory and language tasks. These data will be available to the general community. Additionally, using the cortical parcellation scheme common to all imaging modalities, the HCP will provide processing pipelines for calculating connection matrices as a function of time and frequency. Together with structural and functional data generated using magnetic resonance imaging methods, these data represent a unique opportunity to investigate brain network connectivity in a large cohort of normal adult human subjects. The analysis pipeline software and the dynamic connectivity matrices that it generates will all be made freely available to the research community.
  • Lüttjohann, A., Schoffelen, J.-M., & Van Luijtelaar, G. (2013). Peri-ictal network dynamics of spike-wave discharges: Phase and spectral characteristics. Experimental Neurology, 239, 235-247. doi:10.1016/j.expneurol.2012.10.021.

    Abstract

    Purpose The brain is a highly interconnected neuronal assembly in which network analyses can greatly enlarge our knowledge on seizure generation. The cortico-thalamo-cortical network is the brain-network of interest in absence epilepsy. Here, network synchronization is assessed in a genetic absence model during 5 second long pre-ictal- > ictal transition periods. Method 16 male WAG/Rij rats were equipped with multiple electrodes targeting layer 4 to 6 of the somatosensory-cortex, rostral and caudal RTN, VPM, anterior-(ATN) and posterior (Po) thalamic nucleus. Local Field Potentials measured during pre-ictal- > ictal transition and during control periods were subjected to time-frequency and pairwise phase consistency analysis. Results Pre-ictally, all channels showed Spike-Wave Discharge (SWD) precursor activity (increases in spectral power), which were earliest and most pronounced in the somatosensory cortex. The caudal RTN decoupled from VPM, Po and cortical layer 4. Strong increases in synchrony were found between cortex and thalamus during SWD. Although increases between cortex and VPM were seen in SWD frequencies and its harmonics, boarder spectral increases (6-48 Hz) were seen between cortex and Po. All thalamic nuclei showed increased phase synchronization with Po but not with VPM. Conclusion Absence seizures are not sudden and unpredictable phenomena: the somatosensory cortex shows highest and earliest precursor activity. The pre-ictal decoupling of the caudal RTN might be a prerequisite of SWD generation. Po nucleus might be the primary thalamic counterpart to the somatosensory-cortex in the generation of the cortico-thalamic-cortical oscillations referred to as SWD.
  • Mazzone, M., & Campisi, E. (2013). Distributed intentionality: A model of intentional behavior in humans. Philosophical Psychology, 26, 267-290. doi:10.1080/09515089.2011.641743.

    Abstract

    Is human behavior, and more specifically linguistic behavior, intentional? Some scholars have proposed that action is driven in a top-down manner by one single intention—i.e.,one single conscious goal. Others have argued that actions are mostly non-intentional,insofar as often the single goal driving an action is not consciously represented. We intend to claim that both alternatives are unsatisfactory; more specifically, we claim that actions are intentional, but intentionality is distributed across complex goal-directed representations of action, rather than concentrated in single intentions driving action in a top-down manner. These complex representations encompass a multiplicity of goals, together with other components which are not goals themselves, and are the result of a largely automatic dynamic of activation; such an automatic processing, however, does not preclude the involvement of conscious attention, shifting from one component to the other of the overall goal-directed representation.

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  • Meyer, A. S., & Hagoort, P. (2013). What does it mean to predict one's own utterances? [Commentary on Pickering & Garrod]. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 36, 367-368. doi:10.1017/S0140525X12002786.

    Abstract

    Many authors have recently highlighted the importance of prediction for language comprehension. Pickering & Garrod (P&G) are the first to propose a central role for prediction in language production. This is an intriguing idea, but it is not clear what it means for speakers to predict their own utterances, and how prediction during production can be empirically distinguished from production proper.
  • Minagawa-Kawai, Y., Cristia, A., Long, B., Vendelin, I., Hakuno, Y., Dutat, M., Filippin, L., Cabrol, D., & Dupoux, E. (2013). Insights on NIRS sensitivity from a cross-linguistic study on the emergence of phonological grammar. Frontiers in Psychology, 4: 170. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00170.

    Abstract

    Each language has a unique set of phonemic categories and phonotactic rules which determine permissible sound sequences in that language. Behavioral research demonstrates that one’s native language shapes the perception of both sound categories and sound sequences in adults, and neuroimaging results further indicate that the processing of native phonemes and phonotactics involves a left-dominant perisylvian brain network. Recent work using a novel technique, functional Near InfraRed Spectroscopy (NIRS), has suggested that a left-dominant network becomes evident toward the end of the first year of life as infants process phonemic contrasts. The present research project attempted to assess whether the same pattern would be seen for native phonotactics. We measured brain responses in Japanese- and French-learning infants to two contrasts: Abuna vs. Abna (a phonotactic contrast that is native in French, but not in Japanese) and Abuna vs. Abuuna (a vowel length contrast that is native in Japanese, but not in French). Results did not show a significant response to either contrast in either group, unlike both previous behavioral research on phonotactic processing and NIRS work on phonemic processing. To understand these null results, we performed similar NIRS experiments with Japanese adult participants. These data suggest that the infant null results arise from an interaction of multiple factors, involving the suitability of the experimental paradigm for NIRS measurements and stimulus perceptibility. We discuss the challenges facing this novel technique, particularly focusing on the optimal stimulus presentation which could yield strong enough hemodynamic responses when using the change detection paradigm.
  • Nieuwenhuis, I. L., Folia, V., Forkstam, C., Jensen, O., & Petersson, K. M. (2013). Sleep promotes the extraction of grammatical rules. PLoS One, 8(6): e65046. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065046.

    Abstract

    Grammar acquisition is a high level cognitive function that requires the extraction of complex rules. While it has been proposed that offline time might benefit this type of rule extraction, this remains to be tested. Here, we addressed this question using an artificial grammar learning paradigm. During a short-term memory cover task, eighty-one human participants were exposed to letter sequences generated according to an unknown artificial grammar. Following a time delay of 15 min, 12 h (wake or sleep) or 24 h, participants classified novel test sequences as Grammatical or Non-Grammatical. Previous behavioral and functional neuroimaging work has shown that classification can be guided by two distinct underlying processes: (1) the holistic abstraction of the underlying grammar rules and (2) the detection of sequence chunks that appear at varying frequencies during exposure. Here, we show that classification performance improved after sleep. Moreover, this improvement was due to an enhancement of rule abstraction, while the effect of chunk frequency was unaltered by sleep. These findings suggest that sleep plays a critical role in extracting complex structure from separate but related items during integrative memory processing. Our findings stress the importance of alternating periods of learning with sleep in settings in which complex information must be acquired.
  • Peeters, D., Dijkstra, T., & Grainger, J. (2013). The representation and processing of identical cognates by late bilinguals: RT and ERP effects. Journal of Memory and Language, 68, 315-332. doi:10.1016/j.jml.2012.12.003.

    Abstract

    Across the languages of a bilingual, translation equivalents can have the same orthographic form and shared meaning (e.g., TABLE in French and English). How such words, called orthographically identical cognates, are processed and represented in the bilingual brain is not well understood. In the present study, late French–English bilinguals processed such identical cognates and control words in an English lexical decision task. Both behavioral and electrophysiological data were collected. Reaction times to identical cognates were shorter than for non-cognate controls and depended on both English and French frequency. Cognates with a low English frequency showed a larger cognate advantage than those with a high English frequency. In addition, N400 amplitude was found to be sensitive to cognate status and both the English and French frequency of the cognate words. Theoretical consequences for the processing and representation of identical cognates are discussed.
  • Piai, V., Roelofs, A., Acheson, D. J., & Takashima, A. (2013). Attention for speaking: Neural substrates of general and specific mechanisms for monitoring and control. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7: 832. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2013.00832.

    Abstract

    Accumulating evidence suggests that some degree of attentional control is required to regulate and monitor processes underlying speaking. Although progress has been made in delineating the neural substrates of the core language processes involved in speaking, substrates associated with regulatory and monitoring processes have remained relatively underspecified. We report the results of an fMRI study examining the neural substrates related to performance in three attention-demanding tasks varying in the amount of linguistic processing: vocal picture naming while ignoring distractors (picture-word interference, PWI); vocal color naming while ignoring distractors (Stroop); and manual object discrimination while ignoring spatial position (Simon task). All three tasks had congruent and incongruent stimuli, while PWI and Stroop also had neutral stimuli. Analyses focusing on common activation across tasks identified a portion of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) that was active in incongruent trials for all three tasks, suggesting that this region subserves a domain-general attentional control function. In the language tasks, this area showed increased activity for incongruent relative to congruent stimuli, consistent with the involvement of domain-general mechanisms of attentional control in word production. The two language tasks also showed activity in anterior-superior temporal gyrus (STG). Activity increased for neutral PWI stimuli (picture and word did not share the same semantic category) relative to incongruent (categorically related) and congruent stimuli. This finding is consistent with the involvement of language-specific areas in word production, possibly related to retrieval of lexical-semantic information from memory. The current results thus suggest that in addition to engaging language-specific areas for core linguistic processes, speaking also engages the ACC, a region that is likely implementing domain-general attentional control.
  • Piai, V., Meyer, L., Schreuder, R., & Bastiaansen, M. C. M. (2013). Sit down and read on: Working memory and long-term memory in particle-verb processing. Brain and Language, 127(2), 296-306. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2013.09.015.

    Abstract

    Particle verbs (e.g., look up) are lexical items for which particle and verb share a single lexical entry. Using event-related brain potentials, we examined working memory and long-term memory involvement in particle-verb processing. Dutch participants read sentences with head verbs that allow zero, two, or more than five particles to occur downstream. Additionally, sentences were presented for which the encountered particle was semantically plausible, semantically implausible, or forming a non-existing particle verb. An anterior negativity was observed at the verbs that potentially allow for a particle downstream relative to verbs that do not, possibly indexing storage of the verb until the dependency with its particle can be closed. Moreover, a graded N400 was found at the particle (smallest amplitude for plausible particles and largest for particles forming non-existing particle verbs), suggesting that lexical access to a shared lexical entry occurred at two separate time points.
  • Rommers, J., Dijkstra, T., & Bastiaansen, M. C. M. (2013). Context-dependent semantic processing in the human brain: Evidence from idiom comprehension. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 25(5), 762-776. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_00337.

    Abstract

    Language comprehension involves activating word meanings and integrating them with the sentence context. This study examined whether these routines are carried out even when they are theoretically unnecessary, namely in the case of opaque idiomatic expressions, for which the literal word meanings are unrelated to the overall meaning of the expression. Predictable words in sentences were replaced by a semantically related or unrelated word. In literal sentences, this yielded previously established behavioral and electrophysiological signatures of semantic processing: semantic facilitation in lexical decision, a reduced N400 for semantically related relative to unrelated words, and a power increase in the gamma frequency band that was disrupted by semantic violations. However, the same manipulations in idioms yielded none of these effects. Instead, semantic violations elicited a late positivity in idioms. Moreover, gamma band power was lower in correct idioms than in correct literal sentences. It is argued that the brain's semantic expectancy and literal word meaning integration operations can, to some extent, be “switched off” when the context renders them unnecessary. Furthermore, the results lend support to models of idiom comprehension that involve unitary idiom representations.
  • Segaert, K., Kempen, G., Petersson, K. M., & Hagoort, P. (2013). Syntactic priming and the lexical boost effect during sentence production and sentence comprehension: An fMRI study. Brain and Language, 124, 174-183. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2012.12.003.

    Abstract

    Behavioral syntactic priming effects during sentence comprehension are typically observed only if both the syntactic structure and lexical head are repeated. In contrast, during production syntactic priming occurs with structure repetition alone, but the effect is boosted by repetition of the lexical head. We used fMRI to investigate the neuronal correlates of syntactic priming and lexical boost effects during sentence production and comprehension. The critical measure was the magnitude of fMRI adaptation to repetition of sentences in active or passive voice, with or without verb repetition. In conditions with repeated verbs, we observed adaptation to structure repetition in the left IFG and MTG, for active and passive voice. However, in the absence of repeated verbs, adaptation occurred only for passive sentences. None of the fMRI adaptation effects yielded differential effects for production versus comprehension, suggesting that sentence comprehension and production are subserved by the same neuronal infrastructure for syntactic processing.

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  • Segaert, K., Weber, K., De Lange, F., Petersson, K. M., & Hagoort, P. (2013). The suppression of repetition enhancement: A review of fMRI studies. Neuropsychologia, 51, 59-66. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2012.11.006.

    Abstract

    Repetition suppression in fMRI studies is generally thought to underlie behavioural facilitation effects (i.e., priming) and it is often used to identify the neuronal representations associated with a stimulus. However, this pays little heed to the large number of repetition enhancement effects observed under similar conditions. In this review, we identify several cognitive variables biasing repetition effects in the BOLD response towards enhancement instead of suppression. These variables are stimulus recognition, learning, attention, expectation and explicit memory. We also evaluate which models can account for these repetition effects and come to the conclusion that there is no one single model that is able to embrace all repetition enhancement effects. Accumulation, novel network formation as well as predictive coding models can all explain subsets of repetition enhancement effects.
  • Stolk, A., Verhagen, L., Schoffelen, J.-M., Oostenveld, R., Blokpoel, M., Hagoort, P., van Rooij, I., & Tonia, I. (2013). Neural mechanisms of communicative innovation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110(36), 14574-14579. doi:10.1073/pnas.1303170110.

    Abstract

    Human referential communication is often thought as coding-decoding a set of symbols, neglecting that establishing shared meanings requires a computational mechanism powerful enough to mutually negotiate them. Sharing the meaning of a novel symbol might rely on similar conceptual inferences across communicators or on statistical similarities in their sensorimotor behaviors. Using magnetoencephalography, we assess spectral, temporal, and spatial characteristics of neural activity evoked when people generate and understand novel shared symbols during live communicative interactions. Solving those communicative problems induced comparable changes in the spectral profile of neural activity of both communicators and addressees. This shared neuronal up-regulation was spatially localized to the right temporal lobe and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and emerged already before the occurrence of a specific communicative problem. Communicative innovation relies on neuronal computations that are shared across generating and understanding novel shared symbols, operating over temporal scales independent from transient sensorimotor behavior.
  • Stolk, A., Todorovic, A., Schoffelen, J.-M., & Oostenveld, R. (2013). Online and offline tools for head movement compensation in MEG. NeuroImage, 68, 39-48. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.11.047.

    Abstract

    Magnetoencephalography (MEG) is measured above the head, which makes it sensitive to variations of the head position with respect to the sensors. Head movements blur the topography of the neuronal sources of the MEG signal, increase localization errors, and reduce statistical sensitivity. Here we describe two novel and readily applicable methods that compensate for the detrimental effects of head motion on the statistical sensitivity of MEG experiments. First, we introduce an online procedure that continuously monitors head position. Second, we describe an offline analysis method that takes into account the head position time-series. We quantify the performance of these methods in the context of three different experimental settings, involving somatosensory, visual and auditory stimuli, assessing both individual and group-level statistics. The online head localization procedure allowed for optimal repositioning of the subjects over multiple sessions, resulting in a 28% reduction of the variance in dipole position and an improvement of up to 15% in statistical sensitivity. Offline incorporation of the head position time-series into the general linear model resulted in improvements of group-level statistical sensitivity between 15% and 29%. These tools can substantially reduce the influence of head movement within and between sessions, increasing the sensitivity of many cognitive neuroscience experiments.
  • Tsuji, S., & Cristia, A. (2013). Fifty years of infant vowel discrimination research: What have we learned? Journal of the Phonetic Society of Japan, 17(3), 1-11.
  • Van Berkum, J. J. A., De Goede, D., Van Alphen, P. M., Mulder, E. R., & Kerstholt, J. H. (2013). How robust is the language architecture? The case of mood. Frontiers in Psychology, 4: 505. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00505.

    Abstract

    In neurocognitive research on language, the processing principles of the system at hand are usually assumed to be relatively invariant. However, research on attention, memory, decision-making, and social judgment has shown that mood can substantially modulate how the brain processes information. For example, in a bad mood, people typically have a narrower focus of attention and rely less on heuristics. In the face of such pervasive mood effects elsewhere in the brain, it seems unlikely that language processing would remain untouched. In an EEG experiment, we manipulated the mood of participants just before they read texts that confirmed or disconfirmed verb-based expectations about who would be talked about next (e.g., that “David praised Linda because … ” would continue about Linda, not David), or that respected or violated a syntactic agreement rule (e.g., “The boys turns”). ERPs showed that mood had little effect on syntactic parsing, but did substantially affect referential anticipation: whereas readers anticipated information about a specific person when they were in a good mood, a bad mood completely abolished such anticipation. A behavioral follow-up experiment suggested that a bad mood did not interfere with verb-based expectations per se, but prevented readers from using that information rapidly enough to predict upcoming reference on the fly, as the sentence unfolds. In all, our results reveal that background mood, a rather unobtrusive affective state, selectively changes a crucial aspect of real-time language processing. This observation fits well with other observed interactions between language processing and affect (emotions, preferences, attitudes, mood), and more generally testifies to the importance of studying “cold” cognitive functions in relation to “hot” aspects of the brain.
  • Van Leeuwen, T. M., Hagoort, P., & Händel, B. F. (2013). Real color captures attention and overrides spatial cues in grapheme-color synesthetes but not in controls. Neuropsychologia, 51(10), 1802-1813. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2013.06.024.

    Abstract

    Grapheme-color synesthetes perceive color when reading letters or digits. We investigated oscillatory brain signals of synesthetes vs. controls using magnetoencephalography. Brain oscillations specifically in the alpha band (∼10 Hz) have two interesting features: alpha has been linked to inhibitory processes and can act as a marker for attention. The possible role of reduced inhibition as an underlying cause of synesthesia, as well as the precise role of attention in synesthesia is widely discussed. To assess alpha power effects due to synesthesia, synesthetes as well as matched controls viewed synesthesia-inducing graphemes, colored control graphemes, and non-colored control graphemes while brain activity was recorded. Subjects had to report a color change at the end of each trial which allowed us to assess the strength of synesthesia in each synesthete. Since color (synesthetic or real) might allocate attention we also included an attentional cue in our paradigm which could direct covert attention. In controls the attentional cue always caused a lateralization of alpha power with a contralateral decrease and ipsilateral alpha increase over occipital sensors. In synesthetes, however, the influence of the cue was overruled by color: independent of the attentional cue, alpha power decreased contralateral to the color (synesthetic or real). This indicates that in synesthetes color guides attention. This was confirmed by reaction time effects due to color, i.e. faster RTs for the color side independent of the cue. Finally, the stronger the observed color dependent alpha lateralization, the stronger was the manifestation of synesthesia as measured by congruency effects of synesthetic colors on RTs. Behavioral and imaging results indicate that color induces a location-specific, automatic shift of attention towards color in synesthetes but not in controls. We hypothesize that this mechanism can facilitate coupling of grapheme and color during the development of synesthesia.
  • Wagensveld, B., Van Alphen, P. M., Segers, E., Hagoort, P., & Verhoeven, L. (2013). The neural correlates of rhyme awareness in preliterate and literate children. Clinical Neurophysiology, 124, 1336-1345. doi:10.1016/j.clinph.2013.01.022.

    Abstract

    Objective Most rhyme awareness assessments do not encompass measures of the global similarity effect (i.e., children who are able to perform simple rhyme judgments get confused when presented with globally similar non-rhyming pairs). The present study examines the neural nature of this effect by studying the N450 rhyme effect. Methods Behavioral and electrophysiological responses of Dutch pre-literate kindergartners and literate second graders were recorded while they made rhyme judgments of word pairs in three conditions; phonologically rhyming (e.g., wijn-pijn), overlapping non-rhyming (e.g., pen-pijn) and unrelated non-rhyming pairs (e.g., boom-pijn). Results Behaviorally, both groups had difficulty judging overlapping but not rhyming and unrelated pairs. The neural data of second graders showed overlapping pairs were processed in a similar fashion as unrelated pairs; both showed a more negative deflection of the N450 component than rhyming items. Kindergartners did not show a typical N450 rhyme effect. However, some other interesting ERP differences were observed, indicating preliterates are sensitive to rhyme at a certain level. Significance Rhyme judgments of globally similar items rely on the same process as rhyme judgments of rhyming and unrelated items. Therefore, incorporating a globally similar condition in rhyme assessments may lead to a more in-depth measure of early phonological awareness skills. Highlights Behavioral and electrophysiological responses were recorded while (pre)literate children made rhyme judgments of rhyming, overlapping and unrelated words. Behaviorally both groups had difficulty judging overlapping pairs as non-rhyming while overlapping and unrelated neural patterns were similar in literates. Preliterates show a different pattern indicating a developing phonological system.
  • Wagensveld, B., Segers, E., Van Alphen, P. M., & Verhoeven, L. (2013). The role of lexical representations and phonological overlap in rhyme judgments of beginning, intermediate and advanced readers. Learning and Individual Differences, 23, 64-71. doi:10.1016/j.lindif.2012.09.007.

    Abstract

    Studies have shown that prereaders find globally similar non-rhyming pairs (i.e., bell–ball) difficult to judge. Although this effect has been explained as a result of ill-defined lexical representations, others have suggested that it is part of an innate tendency to respond to phonological overlap. In the present study we examined this effect over time. Beginning, intermediate and advanced readers were presented with a rhyme judgment task containing rhyming, phonologically similar, and unrelated non-rhyming pairs. To examine the role of lexical representations, participants were presented with both words and pseudowords. Outcomes showed that pseudoword processing was difficult for children but not for adults. The global similarity effect was present in both children and adults. The findings imply that holistic representations cannot explain the incapacity to ignore similarity relations during rhyming. Instead, the data provide more evidence for the idea that global similarity processing is part of a more fundamental innate phonological processing capacity.
  • Wang, L., Bastiaansen, M. C. M., Yang, Y., & Hagoort, P. (2013). ERP evidence on the interaction between information structure and emotional salience of words. Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience, 13, 297-310. doi:10.3758/s13415-012-0146-2.

    Abstract

    Both emotional words and words focused by information structure can capture attention. This study examined the interplay between emotional salience and information structure in modulating attentional resources in the service of integrating emotional words into sentence context. Event-related potentials (ERPs) to affectively negative, neutral, and positive words, which were either focused or nonfocused in question–answer pairs, were evaluated during sentence comprehension. The results revealed an early negative effect (90–200 ms), a P2 effect, as well as an effect in the N400 time window, for both emotional salience and information structure. Moreover, an interaction between emotional salience and information structure occurred within the N400 time window over right posterior electrodes, showing that information structure influences the semantic integration only for neutral words, but not for emotional words. This might reflect the fact that the linguistic salience of emotional words can override the effect of information structure on the integration of words into context. The interaction provides evidence for attention–emotion interactions at a later stage of processing. In addition, the absence of interaction in the early time window suggests that the processing of emotional information is highly automatic and independent of context. The results suggest independent attention capture systems of emotional salience and information structure at the early stage but an interaction between them at a later stage, during the semantic integration of words.
  • Wang, L., Zhu, Z., Bastiaansen, M. C. M., Hagoort, P., & Yang, Y. (2013). Recognizing the emotional valence of names: An ERP study. Brain and Language, 125, 118-127. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2013.01.006.

    Abstract

    Unlike common nouns, person names refer to unique entities and generally have a referring function. We used event-related potentials to investigate the time course of identifying the emotional meaning of nouns and names. The emotional valence of names and nouns were manipulated separately. The results show early N1 effects in response to emotional valence only for nouns. This might reflect automatic attention directed towards emotional stimuli. The absence of such an effect for names supports the notion that the emotional meaning carried by names is accessed after word recognition and person identification. In addition, both names with negative valence and emotional nouns elicited late positive effects, which have been associated with evaluation of emotional significance. This positive effect started earlier for nouns than for names, but with similar durations. Our results suggest that distinct neural systems are involved in the retrieval of names’ and nouns’ emotional meaning.
  • Wang, L., & Chu, M. (2013). The role of beat gesture and pitch accent in semantic processing: An ERP study. Neuropsychologia, 51(13), 2847-2855. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2013.09.027.

    Abstract

    The present study investigated whether and how beat gesture (small baton-like hand movements used to emphasize information in speech) influences semantic processing as well as its interaction with pitch accent during speech comprehension. Event-related potentials were recorded as participants watched videos of a person gesturing and speaking simultaneously. The critical words in the spoken sentences were accompanied by a beat gesture, a control hand movement, or no hand movement, and were expressed either with or without pitch accent. We found that both beat gesture and control hand movement induced smaller negativities in the N400 time window than when no hand movement was presented. The reduced N400s indicate that both beat gesture and control movement facilitated the semantic integration of the critical word into the sentence context. In addition, the words accompanied by beat gesture elicited smaller negativities in the N400 time window than those accompanied by control hand movement over right posterior electrodes, suggesting that beat gesture has a unique role for enhancing semantic processing during speech comprehension. Finally, no interaction was observed between beat gesture and pitch accent, indicating that they affect semantic processing independently.
  • Whitmarsh, S., Udden, J., Barendregt, H., & Petersson, K. M. (2013). Mindfulness reduces habitual responding based on implicit knowledge: Evidence from artificial grammar learning. Consciousness and Cognition, (3), 833-845. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2013.05.007.

    Abstract

    Participants were unknowingly exposed to complex regularities in a working memory task. The existence of implicit knowledge was subsequently inferred from a preference for stimuli with similar grammatical regularities. Several affective traits have been shown to influence AGL performance positively, many of which are related to a tendency for automatic responding. We therefore tested whether the mindfulness trait predicted a reduction of grammatically congruent preferences, and used emotional primes to explore the influence of affect. Mindfulness was shown to correlate negatively with grammatically congruent responses. Negative primes were shown to result in faster and more negative evaluations. We conclude that grammatically congruent preference ratings rely on habitual responses, and that our findings provide empirical evidence for the non-reactive disposition of the mindfulness trait.
  • Willems, R. M. (2013). Can literary studies contribute to cognitive neuroscience? Journal of literary semantics, 42(2), 217-222. doi:10.1515/jls-2013-0011.
  • 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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    Segaert_2011_Supporting_Info.doc
  • 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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    Supplementary materials Willems.pdf
  • 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.
  • 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

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