Publications

Displaying 1 - 100 of 106
  • Arana, S., Marquand, A., Hulten, A., Hagoort, P., & Schoffelen, J.-M. (2020). Sensory modality-independent activation of the brain network for language. The Journal of Neuroscience, 40(14), 2914-2924. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2271-19.2020.

    Abstract

    The meaning of a sentence can be understood, whether presented in written or spoken form. Therefore it is highly probable that brain processes supporting language comprehension are at least partly independent of sensory modality. To identify where and when in the brain language processing is independent of sensory modality, we directly compared neuromagnetic brain signals of 200 human subjects (102 males) either reading or listening to sentences. We used multiset canonical correlation analysis to align individual subject data in a way that boosts those aspects of the signal that are common to all, allowing us to capture word-by-word signal variations, consistent across subjects and at a fine temporal scale. Quantifying this consistency in activation across both reading and listening tasks revealed a mostly left hemispheric cortical network. Areas showing consistent activity patterns include not only areas previously implicated in higher-level language processing, such as left prefrontal, superior & middle temporal areas and anterior temporal lobe, but also parts of the control-network as well as subcentral and more posterior temporal-parietal areas. Activity in this supramodal sentence processing network starts in temporal areas and rapidly spreads to the other regions involved. The findings do not only indicate the involvement of a large network of brain areas in supramodal language processing, but also indicate that the linguistic information contained in the unfolding sentences modulates brain activity in a word-specific manner across subjects.
  • Bosker, H. R., Peeters, D., & Holler, J. (2020). How visual cues to speech rate influence speech perception. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 73(10), 1523-1536. doi:10.1177/1747021820914564.

    Abstract

    Spoken words are highly variable and therefore listeners interpret speech sounds relative to the surrounding acoustic context, such as the speech rate of a preceding sentence. For instance, a vowel midway between short /ɑ/ and long /a:/ in Dutch is perceived as short /ɑ/ in the context of preceding slow speech, but as long /a:/ if preceded by a fast context. Despite the well-established influence of visual articulatory cues on speech comprehension, it remains unclear whether visual cues to speech rate also influence subsequent spoken word recognition. In two ‘Go Fish’-like experiments, participants were presented with audio-only (auditory speech + fixation cross), visual-only (mute videos of talking head), and audiovisual (speech + videos) context sentences, followed by ambiguous target words containing vowels midway between short /ɑ/ and long /a:/. In Experiment 1, target words were always presented auditorily, without visual articulatory cues. Although the audio-only and audiovisual contexts induced a rate effect (i.e., more long /a:/ responses after fast contexts), the visual-only condition did not. When, in Experiment 2, target words were presented audiovisually, rate effects were observed in all three conditions, including visual-only. This suggests that visual cues to speech rate in a context sentence influence the perception of following visual target cues (e.g., duration of lip aperture), which at an audiovisual integration stage bias participants’ target categorization responses. These findings contribute to a better understanding of how what we see influences what we hear.
  • Bosker, H. R., Sjerps, M. J., & Reinisch, E. (2020). Temporal contrast effects in human speech perception are immune to selective attention. Scientific Reports, 10: 5607. doi:10.1038/s41598-020-62613-8.

    Abstract

    Two fundamental properties of perception are selective attention and perceptual contrast, but how these two processes interact remains unknown. Does an attended stimulus history exert a larger contrastive influence on the perception of a following target than unattended stimuli? Dutch listeners categorized target sounds with a reduced prefix “ge-” marking tense (e.g., ambiguous between gegaan-gaan “gone-go”). In ‘single talker’ Experiments 1–2, participants perceived the reduced syllable (reporting gegaan) when the target was heard after a fast sentence, but not after a slow sentence (reporting gaan). In ‘selective attention’ Experiments 3–5, participants listened to two simultaneous sentences from two different talkers, followed by the same target sounds, with instructions to attend only one of the two talkers. Critically, the speech rates of attended and unattended talkers were found to equally influence target perception – even when participants could watch the attended talker speak. In fact, participants’ target perception in ‘selective attention’ Experiments 3–5 did not differ from participants who were explicitly instructed to divide their attention equally across the two talkers (Experiment 6). This suggests that contrast effects of speech rate are immune to selective attention, largely operating prior to attentional stream segregation in the auditory processing hierarchy.

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  • Bouhali, F., Mongelli, V., Thiebaut de Schotten, M., & Cohen, L. (2020). Reading music and words: The anatomical connectivity of musicians’ visual cortex. NeuroImage, 212: 116666. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.116666.

    Abstract

    Musical score reading and word reading have much in common, from their historical origins to their cognitive foundations and neural correlates. In the ventral occipitotemporal cortex (VOT), the specialization of the so-called Visual Word Form Area for word reading has been linked to its privileged structural connectivity to distant language regions. Here we investigated how anatomical connectivity relates to the segregation of regions specialized for musical notation or words in the VOT. In a cohort of professional musicians and non-musicians, we used probabilistic tractography combined with task-related functional MRI to identify the connections of individually defined word- and music-selective left VOT regions. Despite their close proximity, these regions differed significantly in their structural connectivity, irrespective of musical expertise. The music-selective region was significantly more connected to posterior lateral temporal regions than the word-selective region, which, conversely, was significantly more connected to anterior ventral temporal cortex. Furthermore, musical expertise had a double impact on the connectivity of the music region. First, music tracts were significantly larger in musicians than in non-musicians, associated with marginally higher connectivity to perisylvian music-related areas. Second, the spatial similarity between music and word tracts was significantly increased in musicians, consistently with the increased overlap of language and music functional activations in musicians, as compared to non-musicians. These results support the view that, for music as for words, very specific anatomical connections influence the specialization of distinct VOT areas, and that reciprocally those connections are selectively enhanced by the expertise for word or music reading.

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  • Casasanto, D., Casasanto, L. S., Gijssels, T., & Hagoort, P. (2020). The Reverse Chameleon Effect: Negative social consequences of anatomical mimicry. Frontiers in Psychology, 11: 1876. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01876.

    Abstract

    Bodily mimicry often makes the mimickee have more positive feelings about the mimicker. Yet, little is known about the causes of mimicry’s social effects. When people mimic each other’s bodily movements face to face, they can either adopt a mirrorwise perspective (moving in the same absolute direction) or an anatomical perspective (moving in the same direction relative to their own bodies). Mirrorwise mimicry maximizes visuo-spatial similarity between the mimicker and mimickee, whereas anatomical mimicry maximizes the similarity in the states of their motor systems. To compare the social consequences of visuo-spatial and motoric similarity, we asked participants to converse with an embodied virtual agent (VIRTUO), who mimicked their head movements either mirrorwise, anatomically, or not at all. Compared to participants who were not mimicked, those who were mimicked mirrorwise tended to rate VIRTUO more positively, but those who were mimicked anatomically rated him more negatively. During face-to-face conversation, mirrorwise and anatomical mimicry have opposite social consequences. Results suggest that visuo-spatial similarity between mimicker and mimickee, not similarity in motor system activity, gives rise to the positive social effects of bodily mimicry.
  • Coopmans, C. W., & Nieuwland, M. S. (2020). Dissociating activation and integration of discourse referents: Evidence from ERPs and oscillations. Cortex, 126, 83-106. doi:10.1016/j.cortex.2019.12.028.

    Abstract

    A key challenge in understanding stories and conversations is the comprehension of ‘anaphora’, words that refer back to previously mentioned words or concepts (‘antecedents’). In psycholinguistic theories, anaphor comprehension involves the initial activation of the antecedent and its subsequent integration into the unfolding representation of the narrated event. A recent proposal suggests that these processes draw upon the brain’s recognition memory and language networks, respectively, and may be dissociable in patterns of neural oscillatory synchronization (Nieuwland & Martin, 2017). We addressed this proposal in an electroencephalogram (EEG) study with pre-registered data acquisition and analyses, using event-related potentials (ERPs) and neural oscillations. Dutch participants read two-sentence mini stories containing proper names, which were repeated or new (ease of activation) and semantically coherent or incoherent with the preceding discourse (ease of integration). Repeated names elicited lower N400 and Late Positive Component amplitude than new names, and also an increase in theta-band (4-7 Hz) synchronization, which was largest around 240-450 ms after name onset. Discourse-coherent names elicited an increase in gamma-band (60-80 Hz) synchronization compared to discourse-incoherent names. This effect was largest around 690-1000 ms after name onset and exploratory beamformer analysis suggested a left frontal source. We argue that the initial activation and subsequent discourse-level integration of referents can be dissociated with event-related EEG activity, and are associated with respectively theta- and gamma-band activity. These findings further establish the link between memory and language through neural oscillations.

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  • Coopmans, C. W., & Schoenmakers, G.-J. (2020). Incremental structure building of preverbal PPs in Dutch. Linguistics in the Netherlands, 37(1), 38-52. doi:10.1075/avt.00036.coo.

    Abstract

    Incremental comprehension of head-final constructions can reveal structural attachment preferences for ambiguous phrases. This study investigates how temporarily ambiguous PPs are processed in Dutch verb-final constructions. In De aannemer heeft op het dakterras bespaard/gewerkt ‘The contractor has on the roof terrace saved/worked’, the PP is locally ambiguous between attachment as argument and as adjunct. This ambiguity is resolved by the sentence-final verb. In a self-paced reading task, we manipulated the argument/adjunct status of the PP, and its position relative to the verb. While we found no reading-time differences between argument and adjunct PPs, we did find that transitive verbs, for which the PP is an argument, were read more slowly than intransitive verbs, for which the PP is an adjunct. We suggest that Dutch parsers have a preference for adjunct attachment of preverbal PPs, and discuss our findings in terms of incremental parsing models that aim to minimize costly reanalysis.
  • Fitz, H., Uhlmann, M., Van den Broek, D., Duarte, R., Hagoort, P., & Petersson, K. M. (2020). Neuronal spike-rate adaptation supports working memory in language processing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 117(34), 20881-20889. doi:10.1073/pnas.2000222117.

    Abstract

    Language processing involves the ability to store and integrate pieces of information in working memory over short periods of time. According to the dominant view, information is maintained through sustained, elevated neural activity. Other work has argued that short-term synaptic facilitation can serve as a substrate of memory. Here, we propose an account where memory is supported by intrinsic plasticity that downregulates neuronal firing rates. Single neuron responses are dependent on experience and we show through simulations that these adaptive changes in excitability pro- vide memory on timescales ranging from milliseconds to seconds. On this account, spiking activity writes information into coupled dynamic variables that control adaptation and move at slower timescales than the membrane potential. From these variables, information is continuously read back into the active membrane state for processing. This neuronal memory mech- anism does not rely on persistent activity, excitatory feedback, or synap- tic plasticity for storage. Instead, information is maintained in adaptive conductances that reduce firing rates and can be accessed directly with- out cued retrieval. Memory span is systematically related to both the time constant of adaptation and baseline levels of neuronal excitability. Inter- ference effects within memory arise when adaptation is long-lasting. We demonstrate that this mechanism is sensitive to context and serial order which makes it suitable for temporal integration in sequence processing within the language domain. We also show that it enables the binding of linguistic features over time within dynamic memory registers. This work provides a step towards a computational neurobiology of language.
  • Flecken, M., & Van Bergen, G. (2020). Can the English stand the bottle like the Dutch? Effects of relational categories on object perception. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 37(5-6), 271-287. doi:10.1080/02643294.2019.1607272.

    Abstract

    Does language influence how we perceive the world? This study examines how linguistic encoding of relational information by means of verbs implicitly affects visual processing, by measuring perceptual judgements behaviourally, and visual perception and attention in EEG. Verbal systems can vary cross-linguistically: Dutch uses posture verbs to describe inanimate object configurations (the bottle stands/lies on the table). In English, however, such use of posture verbs is rare (the bottle is on the table). Using this test case, we ask (1) whether previously attested language-perception interactions extend to more complex domains, and (2) whether differences in linguistic usage probabilities affect perception. We report three nonverbal experiments in which Dutch and English participants performed a picture-matching task. Prime and target pictures contained object configurations (e.g., a bottle on a table); in the critical condition, prime and target showed a mismatch in object position (standing/lying). In both language groups, we found similar responses, suggesting that probabilistic differences in linguistic encoding of relational information do not affect perception.
  • Fleur, D. S., Flecken, M., Rommers, J., & Nieuwland, M. S. (2020). Definitely saw it coming? The dual nature of the pre-nominal prediction effect. Cognition, 204: 104335. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2020.104335.

    Abstract

    In well-known demonstrations of lexical prediction during language comprehension, pre-nominal articles that mismatch a likely upcoming noun's gender elicit different neural activity than matching articles. However, theories differ on what this pre-nominal prediction effect means and on what is being predicted. Does it reflect mismatch with a predicted article, or ‘merely’ revision of the noun prediction? We contrasted the ‘article prediction mismatch’ hypothesis and the ‘noun prediction revision’ hypothesis in two ERP experiments on Dutch mini-story comprehension, with pre-registered data collection and analyses. We capitalized on the Dutch gender system, which marks gender on definite articles (‘de/het’) but not on indefinite articles (‘een’). If articles themselves are predicted, mismatching gender should have little effect when readers expected an indefinite article without gender marking. Participants read contexts that strongly suggested either a definite or indefinite noun phrase as its best continuation, followed by a definite noun phrase with the expected noun or an unexpected, different gender noun phrase (‘het boek/de roman’, the book/the novel). Experiment 1 (N = 48) showed a pre-nominal prediction effect, but evidence for the article prediction mismatch hypothesis was inconclusive. Informed by exploratory analyses and power analyses, direct replication Experiment 2 (N = 80) yielded evidence for article prediction mismatch at a newly pre-registered occipital region-of-interest. However, at frontal and posterior channels, unexpectedly definite articles also elicited a gender-mismatch effect, and this support for the noun prediction revision hypothesis was further strengthened by exploratory analyses: ERPs elicited by gender-mismatching articles correlated with incurred constraint towards a new noun (next-word entropy), and N400s for initially unpredictable nouns decreased when articles made them more predictable. By demonstrating its dual nature, our results reconcile two prevalent explanations of the pre-nominal prediction effect.
  • Fox, N. P., Leonard, M., Sjerps, M. J., & Chang, E. F. (2020). Transformation of a temporal speech cue to a spatial neural code in human auditory cortex. eLife, 9: e53051. doi:10.7554/eLife.53051.

    Abstract

    In speech, listeners extract continuously-varying spectrotemporal cues from the acoustic signal to perceive discrete phonetic categories. Spectral cues are spatially encoded in the amplitude of responses in phonetically-tuned neural populations in auditory cortex. It remains unknown whether similar neurophysiological mechanisms encode temporal cues like voice-onset time (VOT), which distinguishes sounds like /b/ and/p/. We used direct brain recordings in humans to investigate the neural encoding of temporal speech cues with a VOT continuum from /ba/ to /pa/. We found that distinct neural populations respond preferentially to VOTs from one phonetic category, and are also sensitive to sub-phonetic VOT differences within a population’s preferred category. In a simple neural network model, simulated populations tuned to detect either temporal gaps or coincidences between spectral cues captured encoding patterns observed in real neural data. These results demonstrate that a spatial/amplitude neural code underlies the cortical representation of both spectral and temporal speech cues.

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  • Gilbers, S., Hoeksema, N., De Bot, K., & Lowie, W. (2020). Regional variation in West and East Coast African-American English prosody and rap flows. Language and Speech, 63(4), 713-745. doi:10.1177/0023830919881479.

    Abstract

    Regional variation in African-American English (AAE) is especially salient to its speakers involved with hip-hop culture, as hip-hop assigns great importance to regional identity and regional accents are a key means of expressing regional identity. However, little is known about AAE regional variation regarding prosodic rhythm and melody. In hip-hop music, regional variation can also be observed, with different regions’ rap performances being characterized by distinct “flows” (i.e., rhythmic and melodic delivery), an observation which has not been quantitatively investigated yet. This study concerns regional variation in AAE speech and rap, specifically regarding the United States’ East and West Coasts. It investigates how East Coast and West Coast AAE prosody are distinct, how East Coast and West Coast rap flows differ, and whether the two domains follow a similar pattern: more rhythmic and melodic variation on the West Coast compared to the East Coast for both speech and rap. To this end, free speech and rap recordings of 16 prominent African-American members of the East Coast and West Coast hip-hop communities were phonetically analyzed regarding rhythm (e.g., syllable isochrony and musical timing) and melody (i.e., pitch fluctuation) using a combination of existing and novel methodological approaches. The results mostly confirm the hypotheses that East Coast AAE speech and rap are less rhythmically diverse and more monotone than West Coast AAE speech and rap, respectively. They also show that regional variation in AAE prosody and rap flows pattern in similar ways, suggesting a connection between rhythm and melody in language and music.
  • Heidlmayr, K., Kihlstedt, M., & Isel, F. (2020). A review on the electroencephalography markers of Stroop executive control processes. Brain and Cognition, 146: 105637. doi:10.1016/j.bandc.2020.105637.

    Abstract

    The present article on executive control addresses the issue of the locus of the Stroop effect by examining neurophysiological components marking conflict monitoring, interference suppression, and conflict resolution. Our goal was to provide an overview of a series of determining neurophysiological findings including neural source reconstruction data on distinct executive control processes and sub-processes involved in the Stroop task. Consistently, a fronto-central N2 component is found to reflect conflict monitoring processes, with its main neural generator being the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Then, for cognitive control tasks that involve a linguistic component like the Stroop task, the N2 is followed by a centro-posterior N400 and subsequently a late sustained potential (LSP). The N400 is mainly generated by the ACC and the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and is thought to reflect interference suppression, whereas the LSP plausibly reflects conflict resolution processes. The present overview shows that ERP constitute a reliable methodological tool for tracing with precision the time course of different executive processes and sub-processes involved in experimental tasks involving a cognitive conflict. Future research should shed light on the fine-grained mechanisms of control respectively involved in linguistic and non-linguistic tasks.
  • Heidlmayr, K., Weber, K., Takashima, A., & Hagoort, P. (2020). No title, no theme: The joined neural space between speakers and listeners during production and comprehension of multi-sentence discourse. Cortex, 130, 111-126. doi:10.1016/j.cortex.2020.04.035.

    Abstract

    Speakers and listeners usually interact in larger discourses than single words or even single sentences. The goal of the present study was to identify the neural bases reflecting how the mental representation of the situation denoted in a multi-sentence discourse (situation model) is constructed and shared between speakers and listeners. An fMRI study using a variant of the ambiguous text paradigm was designed. Speakers (n=15) produced ambiguous texts in the scanner and listeners (n=27) subsequently listened to these texts in different states of ambiguity: preceded by a highly informative, intermediately informative or no title at all. Conventional BOLD activation analyses in listeners, as well as inter-subject correlation analyses between the speakers’ and the listeners’ hemodynamic time courses were performed. Critically, only the processing of disambiguated, coherent discourse with an intelligible situation model representation involved (shared) activation in bilateral lateral parietal and medial prefrontal regions. This shared spatiotemporal pattern of brain activation between the speaker and the listener suggests that the process of memory retrieval in medial prefrontal regions and the binding of retrieved information in the lateral parietal cortex constitutes a core mechanism underlying the communication of complex conceptual representations.

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  • Heilbron, M., Richter, D., Ekman, M., Hagoort, P., & De Lange, F. P. (2020). Word contexts enhance the neural representation of individual letters in early visual cortex. Nature Communications, 11: 321. doi:10.1038/s41467-019-13996-4.

    Abstract

    Visual context facilitates perception, but how this is neurally implemented remains unclear. One example of contextual facilitation is found in reading, where letters are more easily identified when embedded in a word. Bottom-up models explain this word advantage as a post-perceptual decision bias, while top-down models propose that word contexts enhance perception itself. Here, we arbitrate between these accounts by presenting words and nonwords and probing the representational fidelity of individual letters using functional magnetic resonance imaging. In line with top-down models, we find that word contexts enhance letter representations in early visual cortex. Moreover, we observe increased coupling between letter information in visual cortex and brain activity in key areas of the reading network, suggesting these areas may be the source of the enhancement. Our results provide evidence for top-down representational enhancement in word recognition, demonstrating that word contexts can modulate perceptual processing already at the earliest visual regions.

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  • Heyselaar, E., Peeters, D., & Hagoort, P. (2020). Do we predict upcoming speech content in naturalistic environments? Language, Cognition and Neuroscience. Advance online publication. doi:10.1080/23273798.2020.1859568.

    Abstract

    The ability to predict upcoming actions is a hallmark of cognition. It remains unclear, however, whether the predictive behaviour observed in controlled lab environments generalises to rich, everyday settings. In four virtual reality experiments, we tested whether a well-established marker of linguistic prediction (anticipatory eye movements) replicated when increasing the naturalness of the paradigm by means of immersing participants in naturalistic scenes (Experiment 1), increasing the number of distractor objects (Experiment 2), modifying the proportion of predictable noun-referents (Experiment 3), and manipulating the location of referents relative to the joint attentional space (Experiment 4). Robust anticipatory eye movements were observed for Experiments 1–3. The anticipatory effect disappeared, however, in Experiment 4. Our findings suggest that predictive processing occurs in everyday communication if the referents are situated in the joint attentional space. Methodologically, our study confirms that ecological validity and experimental control may go hand-in-hand in the study of human predictive behaviour.
  • Huizeling, E., Wang, H., Holland, C., & Kessler, K. (2020). Age-related changes in attentional refocusing during simulated driving. Brain sciences, 10(8): 530. doi:10.3390/brainsci10080530.

    Abstract

    We recently reported that refocusing attention between temporal and spatial tasks becomes more difficult with increasing age, which could impair daily activities such as driving (Callaghan et al., 2017). Here, we investigated the extent to which difficulties in refocusing attention extend to naturalistic settings such as simulated driving. A total of 118 participants in five age groups (18–30; 40–49; 50–59; 60–69; 70–91 years) were compared during continuous simulated driving, where they repeatedly switched from braking due to traffic ahead (a spatially focal yet temporally complex task) to reading a motorway road sign (a spatially more distributed task). Sequential-Task (switching) performance was compared to Single-Task performance (road sign only) to calculate age-related switch-costs. Electroencephalography was recorded in 34 participants (17 in the 18–30 and 17 in the 60+ years groups) to explore age-related changes in the neural oscillatory signatures of refocusing attention while driving. We indeed observed age-related impairments in attentional refocusing, evidenced by increased switch-costs in response times and by deficient modulation of theta and alpha frequencies. Our findings highlight virtual reality (VR) and Neuro-VR as important methodologies for future psychological and gerontological research.

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  • Knudsen, B., Creemers, A., & Meyer, A. S. (2020). Forgotten little words: How backchannels and particles may facilitate speech planning in conversation? Frontiers in Psychology, 11: 593671. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.593671.

    Abstract

    In everyday conversation, turns often follow each other immediately or overlap in time. It has been proposed that speakers achieve this tight temporal coordination between their turns by engaging in linguistic dual-tasking, i.e., by beginning to plan their utterance during the preceding turn. This raises the question of how speakers manage to co-ordinate speech planning and listening with each other. Experimental work addressing this issue has mostly concerned the capacity demands and interference arising when speakers retrieve some content words while listening to others. However, many contributions to conversations are not content words, but backchannels, such as “hm”. Backchannels do not provide much conceptual content and are therefore easy to plan and respond to. To estimate how much they might facilitate speech planning in conversation, we determined their frequency in a Dutch and a German corpus of conversational speech. We found that 19% of the contributions in the Dutch corpus, and 16% of contributions in the German corpus were backchannels. In addition, many turns began with fillers or particles, most often translation equivalents of “yes” or “no,” which are likewise easy to plan.We proposed that to generate comprehensive models of using language in conversation psycholinguists should study not only the generation and processing of content words, as is commonly done, but also consider backchannels, fillers, and particles.
  • König, C. J., Langer, M., Fell, C. B., Pathak, R. D., Bajwa, N. u. H., Derous, E., Geißler, S. M., Hirose, S., Hülsheger, U., Javakhishvili, N., Junges, N., Knudsen, B., Lee, M. S. W., Mariani, M. G., Nag, G. C., Petrescu, C., Robie, C., Rohorua, H., Sammel, L. D., Schichtel, D. and 4 moreKönig, C. J., Langer, M., Fell, C. B., Pathak, R. D., Bajwa, N. u. H., Derous, E., Geißler, S. M., Hirose, S., Hülsheger, U., Javakhishvili, N., Junges, N., Knudsen, B., Lee, M. S. W., Mariani, M. G., Nag, G. C., Petrescu, C., Robie, C., Rohorua, H., Sammel, L. D., Schichtel, D., Titov, S., Todadze, K., von Lautz, A. H., & Ziem, M. (2020). Economic predictors of differences in interview faking between countries: Economic inequality matters, not the state of economy. Applied Psychology. doi:10.1111/apps.12278.

    Abstract

    Many companies recruit employees from different parts of the globe, and faking behavior by potential employees is a ubiquitous phenomenon. It seems that applicants from some countries are more prone to faking compared to others, but the reasons for these differences are largely unexplored. This study relates country-level economic variables to faking behavior in hiring processes. In a cross-national study across 20 countries, participants (N = 3839) reported their faking behavior in their last job interview. This study used the random response technique (RRT) to ensure participants anonymity and to foster honest answers regarding faking behavior. Results indicate that general economic indicators (gross domestic product per capita [GDP] and unemployment rate) show negligible correlations with faking across the countries, whereas economic inequality is positively related to the extent of applicant faking to a substantial extent. These findings imply that people are sensitive to inequality within countries and that inequality relates to faking, because inequality might actuate other psychological processes (e.g., envy) which in turn increase the probability for unethical behavior in many forms.
  • Kösem, A., Bosker, H. R., Jensen, O., Hagoort, P., & Riecke, L. (2020). Biasing the perception of spoken words with transcranial alternating current stimulation. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 32(8), 1428-1437. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_01579.

    Abstract

    Recent neuroimaging evidence suggests that the frequency of entrained oscillations in auditory cortices influences the perceived duration of speech segments, impacting word perception (Kösem et al. 2018). We further tested the causal influence of neural entrainment frequency during speech processing, by manipulating entrainment with continuous transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) at distinct oscillatory frequencies (3 Hz and 5.5 Hz) above the auditory cortices. Dutch participants listened to speech and were asked to report their percept of a target Dutch word, which contained a vowel with an ambiguous duration. Target words were presented either in isolation (first experiment) or at the end of spoken sentences (second experiment). We predicted that the tACS frequency would influence neural entrainment and therewith how speech is perceptually sampled, leading to a perceptual over- or underestimation of the vowel’s duration. Whereas results from Experiment 1 did not confirm this prediction, results from experiment 2 suggested a small effect of tACS frequency on target word perception: Faster tACS lead to more long-vowel word percepts, in line with the previous neuroimaging findings. Importantly, the difference in word perception induced by the different tACS frequencies was significantly larger in experiment 1 vs. experiment 2, suggesting that the impact of tACS is dependent on the sensory context. tACS may have a stronger effect on spoken word perception when the words are presented in continuous speech as compared to when they are isolated, potentially because prior (stimulus-induced) entrainment of brain oscillations might be a prerequisite for tACS to be effective.
  • Liao, Y., Flecken, M., Dijkstra, K., & Zwaan, R. A. (2020). Going places in Dutch and mandarin Chinese: Conceptualising the path of motion cross-linguistically. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 35(4), 498-520. doi:10.1080/23273798.2019.1676455.

    Abstract

    We study to what extent linguistic differences in grammatical aspect systems and verb lexicalisation patterns of Dutch and mandarin Chinese affect how speakers conceptualise the path of motion in motion events, using description and memory tasks. We hypothesised that speakers of the two languages would show different preferences towards the selection of endpoint-, trajectory- or location-information in Endpoint-oriented (not reached) events, whilst showing a similar bias towards encoding endpoints in Endpoint-reached events. Our findings show that (1) groups did not differ in endpoint encoding and memory for both event types; (2) Dutch speakers conceptualised Endpoint-oriented motion focusing on the trajectory, whereas Chinese speakers focused on the location of the moving entity. In addition, we report detailed linguistic patterns of how grammatical aspect, verb semantics and adjuncts containing path-information are combined in the two languages. Results are discussed in relation to typologies of motion expression and event cognition theory.

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  • Lopopolo, A., Van de Bosch, A., Petersson, K. M., & Willems, R. M. (2020). Distinguishing syntactic operations in the brain: Dependency and phrase-structure parsing. Neurobiology of Language. Advance online publication. doi:10.1162/nol_a_00029.

    Abstract

    Finding the structure of a sentence — the way its words hold together to convey meaning — is a fundamental step in language comprehension. Several brain regions, including the left inferior frontal gyrus, the left posterior superior temporal gyrus, and the left anterior temporal pole, are supposed to support this operation. The exact role of these areas is nonetheless still debated. In this paper we investigate the hypothesis that different brain regions could be sensitive to different kinds of syntactic computations. We compare the fit of phrase-structure and dependency structure descriptors to activity in brain areas using fMRI. Our results show a division between areas with regard to the type of structure computed, with the left ATP and left IFG favouring dependency structures and left pSTG favouring phrase structures.
  • Mak, M., De Vries, C., & Willems, R. M. (2020). The influence of mental imagery instructions and personality characteristics on reading experiences. Collabra: Psychology, 6(1): 43. doi:10.1525/collabra.281.

    Abstract

    It is well established that readers form mental images when reading a narrative. However, the consequences of mental imagery (i.e. the influence of mental imagery on the way people experience stories) are still unclear. Here we manipulated the amount of mental imagery that participants engaged in while reading short literary stories in two experiments. Participants received pre-reading instructions aimed at encouraging or discouraging mental imagery. After reading, participants answered questions about their reading experiences. We also measured individual trait differences that are relevant for literary reading experiences. The results from the first experiment suggests an important role of mental imagery in determining reading experiences. However, the results from the second experiment show that mental imagery is only a weak predictor of reading experiences compared to individual (trait) differences in how imaginative participants were. Moreover, the influence of mental imagery instructions did not extend to reading experiences unrelated to mental imagery. The implications of these results for the relationship between mental imagery and reading experiences are discussed.
  • Montero-Melis, G., & Jaeger, T. F. (2020). Changing expectations mediate adaptation in L2 production. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 23(3), 602-617. doi:10.1017/S1366728919000506.

    Abstract

    Native language (L1) processing draws on implicit expectations. An open question is whether non-native learners of a second language (L2) similarly draw on expectations, and whether these expectations are based on learners’ L1 or L2 knowledge. We approach this question by studying inverse preference effects on lexical encoding. L1 and L2 speakers of Spanish described motion events, while they were either primed to express path, manner, or neither. In line with other work, we find that L1 speakers adapted more strongly after primes that are unexpected in their L1. For L2 speakers, adaptation depended on their L2 proficiency: The least proficient speakers exhibited the inverse preference effect on adaptation based on what was unexpected in their L1; but the more proficient speakers were, the more they exhibited inverse preference effects based on what was unexpected in the L2. We discuss implications for L1 transfer and L2 acquisition.
  • Montero-Melis, G., Isaksson, P., Van Paridon, J., & Ostarek, M. (2020). Does using a foreign language reduce mental imagery? Cognition, 196: 104134. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2019.104134.

    Abstract

    In a recent article, Hayakawa and Keysar (2018) propose that mental imagery is less vivid when evoked in a foreign than in a native language. The authors argue that reduced mental imagery could even account for moral foreign language effects, whereby moral choices become more utilitarian when made in a foreign language. Here we demonstrate that Hayakawa and Keysar's (2018) key results are better explained by reduced language comprehension in a foreign language than by less vivid imagery. We argue that the paradigm used in Hayakawa and Keysar (2018) does not provide a satisfactory test of reduced imagery and we discuss an alternative paradigm based on recent experimental developments.

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  • Nieuwland, M. S., Arkhipova, Y., & Rodríguez-Gómez, P. (2020). Anticipating words during spoken discourse comprehension: A large-scale, pre-registered replication study using brain potentials. Cortex, 133, 1-36. doi:10.1016/j.cortex.2020.09.007.

    Abstract

    Numerous studies report brain potential evidence for the anticipation of specific words during language comprehension. In the most convincing demonstrations, highly predictable nouns exert an influence on processing even before they appear to a reader or listener, as indicated by the brain's neural response to a prenominal adjective or article when it mismatches the expectations about the upcoming noun. However, recent studies suggest that some well-known demonstrations of prediction may be hard to replicate. This could signal the use of data-contingent analysis, but might also mean that readers and listeners do not always use prediction-relevant information in the way that psycholinguistic theories typically suggest. To shed light on this issue, we performed a close replication of one of the best-cited ERP studies on word anticipation (Van Berkum, Brown, Zwitserlood, Kooijman & Hagoort, 2005; Experiment 1), in which participants listened to Dutch spoken mini-stories. In the original study, the marking of grammatical gender on pre-nominal adjectives (‘groot/grote’) elicited an early positivity when mismatching the gender of an unseen, highly predictable noun, compared to matching gender. The current pre-registered study involved that same manipulation, but used a novel set of materials twice the size of the original set, an increased sample size (N = 187), and Bayesian mixed-effects model analyses that better accounted for known sources of variance than the original. In our study, mismatching gender elicited more negative voltage than matching gender at posterior electrodes. However, this N400-like effect was small in size and lacked support from Bayes Factors. In contrast, we successfully replicated the original's noun effects. While our results yielded some support for prediction, they do not support the Van Berkum et al. effect and highlight the risks associated with commonly employed data-contingent analyses and small sample sizes. Our results also raise the question whether Dutch listeners reliably or consistently use adjectival inflection information to inform their noun predictions.
  • Nieuwland, M. S., Barr, D. J., Bartolozzi, F., Busch-Moreno, S., Darley, E., Donaldson, D. I., Ferguson, H. J., Fu, X., Heyselaar, E., Huettig, F., Husband, E. M., Ito, A., Kazanina, N., Kogan, V., Kohút, Z., Kulakova, E., Mézière, D., Politzer-Ahles, S., Rousselet, G., Rueschemeyer, S.-A. and 3 moreNieuwland, M. S., Barr, D. J., Bartolozzi, F., Busch-Moreno, S., Darley, E., Donaldson, D. I., Ferguson, H. J., Fu, X., Heyselaar, E., Huettig, F., Husband, E. M., Ito, A., Kazanina, N., Kogan, V., Kohút, Z., Kulakova, E., Mézière, D., Politzer-Ahles, S., Rousselet, G., Rueschemeyer, S.-A., Segaert, K., Tuomainen, J., & Von Grebmer Zu Wolfsthurn, S. (2020). Dissociable effects of prediction and integration during language comprehension: Evidence from a large-scale study using brain potentials. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 375: 20180522. doi:10.1098/rstb.2018.0522.

    Abstract

    Composing sentence meaning is easier for predictable words than for unpredictable words. Are predictable words genuinely predicted, or simply more plausible and therefore easier to integrate with sentence context? We addressed this persistent and fundamental question using data from a recent, large-scale (N = 334) replication study, by investigating the effects of word predictability and sentence plausibility on the N400, the brain’s electrophysiological index of semantic processing. A spatiotemporally fine-grained mixed-effects multiple regression analysis revealed overlapping effects of predictability and plausibility on the N400, albeit with distinct spatiotemporal profiles. Our results challenge the view that the predictability-dependent N400 reflects the effects of either prediction or integration, and suggest that semantic facilitation of predictable words arises from a cascade of processes that activate and integrate word meaning with context into a sentence-level meaning.
  • Nieuwland, M. S., & Kazanina, N. (2020). The neural basis of linguistic prediction: Introduction to the special issue. Neuropsychologia, 146: 107532. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2020.107532.
  • Ortega, G., Ozyurek, A., & Peeters, D. (2020). Iconic gestures serve as manual cognates in hearing second language learners of a sign language: An ERP study. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 46(3), 403-415. doi:10.1037/xlm0000729.

    Abstract

    When learning a second spoken language, cognates, words overlapping in form and meaning with one’s native language, help breaking into the language one wishes to acquire. But what happens when the to-be-acquired second language is a sign language? We tested whether hearing nonsigners rely on their gestural repertoire at first exposure to a sign language. Participants saw iconic signs with high and low overlap with the form of iconic gestures while electrophysiological brain activity was recorded. Upon first exposure, signs with low overlap with gestures elicited enhanced positive amplitude in the P3a component compared to signs with high overlap. This effect disappeared after a training session. We conclude that nonsigners generate expectations about the form of iconic signs never seen before based on their implicit knowledge of gestures, even without having to produce them. Learners thus draw from any available semiotic resources when acquiring a second language, and not only from their linguistic experience
  • Peeters, D. (2020). Bilingual switching between languages and listeners: Insights from immersive virtual reality. Cognition, 195: 104107. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2019.104107.

    Abstract

    Perhaps the main advantage of being bilingual is the capacity to communicate with interlocutors that have different language backgrounds. In the life of a bilingual, switching interlocutors hence sometimes involves switching languages. We know that the capacity to switch from one language to another is supported by control mechanisms, such as task-set reconfiguration. This study investigates whether similar neurophysiological mechanisms support bilingual switching between different listeners, within and across languages. A group of 48 unbalanced Dutch-English bilinguals named pictures for two monolingual Dutch and two monolingual English life-size virtual listeners in an immersive virtual reality environment. In terms of reaction times, switching languages came at a cost over and above the significant cost of switching from one listener to another. Analysis of event-related potentials showed similar electrophysiological correlates for switching listeners and switching languages. However, it was found that having to switch listeners and languages at the same time delays the onset of lexical processes more than a switch between listeners within the same language. Findings are interpreted in light of the interplay between proactive (sustained inhibition) and reactive (task-set reconfiguration) control in bilingual speech production. It is argued that a possible bilingual advantage in executive control may not be due to the process of switching per se. This study paves the way for the study of bilingual language switching in ecologically valid, naturalistic, experimental settings.

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  • Preisig, B., Sjerps, M. J., Hervais-Adelman, A., Kösem, A., Hagoort, P., & Riecke, L. (2020). Bilateral gamma/delta transcranial alternating current stimulation affects interhemispheric speech sound integration. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 32(7), 1242-1250. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_01498.

    Abstract

    Perceiving speech requires the integration of different speech cues, that is, formants. When the speech signal is split so that different cues are presented to the right and left ear (dichotic listening), comprehension requires the integration of binaural information. Based on prior electrophysiological evidence, we hypothesized that the integration of dichotically presented speech cues is enabled by interhemispheric phase synchronization between primary and secondary auditory cortex in the gamma frequency band. We tested this hypothesis by applying transcranial alternating current stimulation (TACS) bilaterally above the superior temporal lobe to induce or disrupt interhemispheric gamma-phase coupling. In contrast to initial predictions, we found that gamma TACS applied in-phase above the two hemispheres (interhemispheric lag 0°) perturbs interhemispheric integration of speech cues, possibly because the applied stimulation perturbs an inherent phase lag between the left and right auditory cortex. We also observed this disruptive effect when applying antiphasic delta TACS (interhemispheric lag 180°). We conclude that interhemispheric phase coupling plays a functional role in interhemispheric speech integration. The direction of this effect may depend on the stimulation frequency.
  • Rasenberg, M., Rommers, J., & Van Bergen, G. (2020). Anticipating predictability: An ERP investigation of expectation-managing discourse markers in dialogue comprehension. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 35(1), 1-16. doi:10.1080/23273798.2019.1624789.

    Abstract

    n two ERP experiments, we investigated how the Dutch discourse markers eigenlijk “actually”, signalling expectation disconfirmation, and inderdaad “indeed”, signalling expectation confirmation, affect incremental dialogue comprehension. We investigated their effects on the processing of subsequent (un)predictable words, and on the quality of word representations in memory. Participants read dialogues with (un)predictable endings that followed a discourse marker (eigenlijk in Experiment 1, inderdaad in Experiment 2) or a control adverb. We found no strong evidence that discourse markers modulated online predictability effects elicited by subsequently read words. However, words following eigenlijk elicited an enhanced posterior post-N400 positivity compared with words following an adverb regardless of their predictability, potentially reflecting increased processing costs associated with pragmatically driven discourse updating. No effects of inderdaad were found on online processing, but inderdaad seemed to influence memory for (un)predictable dialogue endings. These findings nuance our understanding of how pragmatic markers affect incremental language comprehension.

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  • Sharpe, V., Weber, K., & Kuperberg, G. R. (2020). Impairments in probabilistic prediction and Bayesian learning can explain reduced neural semantic priming in schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 46(6), 1558-1566. doi:10.1093/schbul/sbaa069.

    Abstract

    It has been proposed that abnormalities in probabilistic prediction and dynamic belief updating explain the multiple features of schizophrenia. Here, we used electroencephalography (EEG) to ask whether these abnormalities can account for the well-established reduction in semantic priming observed in schizophrenia under nonautomatic conditions. We isolated predictive contributions to the neural semantic priming effect by manipulating the prime’s predictive validity and minimizing retroactive semantic matching mechanisms. We additionally examined the link between prediction and learning using a Bayesian model that probed dynamic belief updating as participants adapted to the increase in predictive validity. We found that patients were less likely than healthy controls to use the prime to predictively facilitate semantic processing on the target, resulting in a reduced N400 effect. Moreover, the trial-by-trial output of our Bayesian computational model explained between-group differences in trial-by-trial N400 amplitudes as participants transitioned from conditions of lower to higher predictive validity. These findings suggest that, compared with healthy controls, people with schizophrenia are less able to mobilize predictive mechanisms to facilitate processing at the earliest stages of accessing the meanings of incoming words. This deficit may be linked to a failure to adapt to changes in the broader environment. This reciprocal relationship between impairments in probabilistic prediction and Bayesian learning/adaptation may drive a vicious cycle that maintains cognitive disturbances in schizophrenia.

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  • Snijders, T. M., Benders, T., & Fikkert, P. (2020). Infants segment words from songs - an EEG study. Brain Sciences, 10( 1): 39. doi:10.3390/brainsci10010039.

    Abstract

    Children’s songs are omnipresent and highly attractive stimuli in infants’ input. Previous work suggests that infants process linguistic–phonetic information from simplified sung melodies. The present study investigated whether infants learn words from ecologically valid children’s songs. Testing 40 Dutch-learning 10-month-olds in a familiarization-then-test electroencephalography (EEG) paradigm, this study asked whether infants can segment repeated target words embedded in songs during familiarization and subsequently recognize those words in continuous speech in the test phase. To replicate previous speech work and compare segmentation across modalities, infants participated in both song and speech sessions. Results showed a positive event-related potential (ERP) familiarity effect to the final compared to the first target occurrences during both song and speech familiarization. No evidence was found for word recognition in the test phase following either song or speech. Comparisons across the stimuli of the present and a comparable previous study suggested that acoustic prominence and speech rate may have contributed to the polarity of the ERP familiarity effect and its absence in the test phase. Overall, the present study provides evidence that 10-month-old infants can segment words embedded in songs, and it raises questions about the acoustic and other factors that enable or hinder infant word segmentation from songs and speech.
  • Takashima, A., Konopka, A. E., Meyer, A. S., Hagoort, P., & Weber, K. (2020). Speaking in the brain: The interaction between words and syntax in sentence production. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 32(8), 1466-1483. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_01563.

    Abstract

    This neuroimaging study investigated the neural infrastructure of sentence-level language production. We compared brain activation patterns, as measured with BOLD-fMRI, during production of sentences that differed in verb argument structures (intransitives, transitives, ditransitives) and the lexical status of the verb (known verbs or pseudoverbs). The experiment consisted of 30 mini-blocks of six sentences each. Each mini-block started with an example for the type of sentence to be produced in that block. On each trial in the mini-blocks, participants were first given the (pseudo-)verb followed by three geometric shapes to serve as verb arguments in the sentences. Production of sentences with known verbs yielded greater activation compared to sentences with pseudoverbs in the core language network of the left inferior frontal gyrus, the left posterior middle temporalgyrus, and a more posterior middle temporal region extending into the angular gyrus, analogous to effects observed in language comprehension. Increasing the number of verb arguments led to greater activation in an overlapping left posterior middle temporal gyrus/angular gyrus area, particularly for known verbs, as well as in the bilateral precuneus. Thus, producing sentences with more complex structures using existing verbs leads to increased activation in the language network, suggesting some reliance on memory retrieval of stored lexical–syntactic information during sentence production. This study thus provides evidence from sentence-level language production in line with functional models of the language network that have so far been mainly based on single-word production, comprehension, and language processing in aphasia.
  • Tan, Y., & Hagoort, P. (2020). Catecholaminergic modulation of semantic processing in sentence comprehension. Cerebral Cortex, 30(12), 6426-6443. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhaa204.

    Abstract

    Catecholamine (CA) function has been widely implicated in cognitive functions that are tied to the prefrontal cortex and striatal areas. The present study investigated the effects of methylphenidate, which is a CA agonist, on the electroencephalogram (EEG) response related to semantic processing using a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized, crossover, within-subject design. Forty-eight healthy participants read semantically congruent or incongruent sentences after receiving 20-mg methylphenidate or a placebo while their brain activity was monitored with EEG. To probe whether the catecholaminergic modulation is task-dependent, in one condition participants had to focus on comprehending the sentences, while in the other condition, they only had to attend to the font size of the sentence. The results demonstrate that methylphenidate has a task-dependent effect on semantic processing. Compared to placebo, when semantic processing was task-irrelevant, methylphenidate enhanced the detection of semantic incongruence as indexed by a larger N400 amplitude in the incongruent sentences; when semantic processing was task-relevant, methylphenidate induced a larger N400 amplitude in the semantically congruent condition, which was followed by a larger late positive complex effect. These results suggest that CA-related neurotransmitters influence language processing, possibly through the projections between the prefrontal cortex and the striatum, which contain many CA receptors.
  • Vanlangendonck, F., Peeters, D., Rüschemeyer, S.-A., & Dijkstra, T. (2020). Mixing the stimulus list in bilingual lexical decision turns cognate facilitation effects into mirrored inhibition effects. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 23(4), 836-844. doi:10.1017/S1366728919000531.

    Abstract

    To test the BIA+ and Multilink models’ accounts of how bilinguals process words with different degrees of cross-linguistic orthographic and semantic overlap, we conducted two experiments manipulating stimulus list composition. Dutch-English late bilinguals performed two English lexical decision tasks including the same set of cognates, interlingual homographs, English control words, and pseudowords. In one task, half of the pseudowords were replaced with Dutch words, requiring a ‘no’ response. This change from pure to mixed language list context was found to turn cognate facilitation effects into inhibition. Relative to control words, larger effects were found for cognate pairs with an increasing cross-linguistic form overlap. Identical cognates produced considerably larger effects than non-identical cognates, supporting their special status in the bilingual lexicon. Response patterns for different item types are accounted for in terms of the items’ lexical representation and their binding to ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses in pure vs mixed lexical decision.

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  • Willems, R. M., Nastase, S. A., & Milivojevic, B. (2020). Narratives for Neuroscience. Trends in Neurosciences, 43(5), 271-273. doi:10.1016/j.tins.2020.03.003.

    Abstract

    People organize and convey their thoughts according to narratives. However, neuroscientists are often reluctant to incorporate narrative stimuli into their experiments. We argue that narratives deserve wider adoption in human neuroscience because they tap into the brain’s native machinery for representing the world and provide rich variability for testing hypotheses.
  • 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.

    Additional information

    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
  • Marklund, P., Fransson, P., Cabeza, R., Petersson, K. M., Ingvar, M., & Nyberg, L. (2007). Sustained and transient neural modulations in prefrontal cortex related to declarative long-term memory, working memory, and attention. Cortex, 43(1), 22-37. doi:10.1016/S0010-9452(08)70443-X.

    Abstract

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

    Abstract

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

    Abstract

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

    Abstract

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

    Abstract

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

    Abstract

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

    Abstract

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

    Abstract

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

    Abstract

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

    Abstract

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

    Abstract

    Previous studies have shown that segmentation skills are language-specific, making it difficult to segment continuous speech in an unfamiliar language into its component words. Here we present the first study capturing the delay in segmentation and recognition in the foreign listener using ERPs. We compared the ability of Dutch adults and of English adults without knowledge of Dutch (‘foreign listeners’) to segment familiarized words from continuous Dutch speech. We used the known effect of repetition on the event-related potential (ERP) as an index of recognition of words in continuous speech. Our results show that word repetitions in isolation are recognized with equivalent facility by native and foreign listeners, but word repetitions in continuous speech are not. First, words familiarized in isolation are recognized faster by native than by foreign listeners when they are repeated in continuous speech. Second, when words that have previously been heard only in a continuous-speech context re-occur in continuous speech, the repetition is detected by native listeners, but is not detected by foreign listeners. A preceding speech context facilitates word recognition for native listeners, but delays or even inhibits word recognition for foreign listeners. We propose that the apparent difference in segmentation rate between native and foreign listeners is grounded in the difference in language-specific skills available to the listeners.

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