Publications

Displaying 1 - 40 of 40
  • Aziz-Zadeh, L., Casasanto, D., Feldman, J., Saxe, R., & Talmy, L. (2008). Discovering the conceptual primitives. In B. C. Love, K. McRae, & V. M. Sloutsky (Eds.), Proceedings of the 30th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 27-28). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.
  • Baggio, G., Van Lambalgen, M., & Hagoort, P. (2008). Computing and recomputing discourse models: An ERP study. Journal of Memory and Language, 59, 36-53. doi:10.1016/j.jml.2008.02.005.

    Abstract

    While syntactic reanalysis has been extensively investigated in psycholinguistics, comparatively little is known about reanalysis in the semantic domain. We used event-related brain potentials (ERPs) to keep track of semantic processes involved in understanding short narratives such as ‘The girl was writing a letter when her friend spilled coffee on the paper’. We hypothesize that these sentences are interpreted in two steps: (1) when the progressive clause is processed, a discourse model is computed in which the goal state (a complete letter) is predicted to hold; (2) when the subordinate clause is processed, the initial representation is recomputed to the effect that, in the final discourse structure, the goal state is not satisfied. Critical sentences evoked larger sustained anterior negativities (SANs) compared to controls, starting around 400 ms following the onset of the sentence-final word, and lasting for about 400 ms. The amplitude of the SAN was correlated with the frequency with which participants, in an offline probe-selection task, responded that the goal state was not attained. Our results raise the possibility that the brain supports some form of non-monotonic recomputation to integrate information which invalidates previously held assumptions.
  • Bastiaansen, M. C. M., Oostenveld, R., Jensen, O., & Hagoort, P. (2008). I see what you mean: Theta power increases are involved in the retrieval of lexical semantic information. Brain and Language, 106(1), 15-28. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2007.10.006.

    Abstract

    An influential hypothesis regarding the neural basis of the mental lexicon is that semantic representations are neurally implemented as distributed networks carrying sensory, motor and/or more abstract functional information. This work investigates whether the semantic properties of words partly determine the topography of such networks. Subjects performed a visual lexical decision task while their EEG was recorded. We compared the EEG responses to nouns with either visual semantic properties (VIS, referring to colors and shapes) or with auditory semantic properties (AUD, referring to sounds). A time–frequency analysis of the EEG revealed power increases in the theta (4–7 Hz) and lower-beta (13–18 Hz) frequency bands, and an early power increase and subsequent decrease for the alpha (8–12 Hz) band. In the theta band we observed a double dissociation: temporal electrodes showed larger theta power increases in the AUD condition, while occipital leads showed larger theta responses in the VIS condition. The results support the notion that semantic representations are stored in functional networks with a topography that reflects the semantic properties of the stored items, and provide further evidence that oscillatory brain dynamics in the theta frequency range are functionally related to the retrieval of lexical semantic information.
  • De Bree, E., Van Alphen, P. M., Fikkert, P., & Wijnen, F. (2008). Metrical stress in comprehension and production of Dutch children at risk of dyslexia. In H. Chan, H. Jacob, & E. Kapia (Eds.), Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development (pp. 60-71). Somerville, Mass: Cascadilla Press.

    Abstract

    The present study compared the role of metrical stress in comprehension and production of three-year-old children with a familial risk of dyslexia with that of normally developing children to further explore the phonological deficit in dyslexia. A visual fixation task with stress (mis-)matches in bisyllabic words, as well as a non-word repetition task with bisyllabic targets were presented to the control and at-risk children. Results show that the at-risk group was less sensitive to stress mismatches in word recognition than the control group. Correct production of metrical stress patterns did not differ significantly between the groups, but the percentages of phonemes produced correctly were lower for the at-risk than the control group. These findings suggest that processing of metrical stress is not impaired in at-risk children, but that this group cannot exploit metrical stress for speech in word recognition. This study demonstrates the importance of including suprasegmental skills in dyslexia research.
  • Casasanto, D., & Boroditsky, L. (2008). Time in the mind: Using space to think about time. Cognition, 106, 579-573. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2007.03.004.

    Abstract

    How do we construct abstract ideas like justice, mathematics, or time-travel? In this paper we investigate whether mental representations that result from physical experience underlie people’s more abstract mental representations, using the domains of space and time as a testbed. People often talk about time using spatial language (e.g., a long vacation, a short concert). Do people also think about time using spatial representations, even when they are not using language? Results of six psychophysical experiments revealed that people are unable to ignore irrelevant spatial information when making judgments about duration, but not the converse. This pattern, which is predicted by the asymmetry between space and time in linguistic metaphors, was demonstrated here in tasks that do not involve any linguistic stimuli or responses. These findings provide evidence that the metaphorical relationship between space and time observed in language also exists in our more basic representations of distance and duration. Results suggest that our mental representations of things we can never see or touch may be built, in part, out of representations of physical experiences in perception and motor action.
  • Casasanto, D. (2008). Who's afraid of the big bad Whorf? Crosslinguistic differences in temporal language and thought. In P. Indefrey, & M. Gullberg (Eds.), Time to speak: Cognitive and neural prerequisites for time in language (pp. 63-79). Oxford: Wiley.

    Abstract

    The idea that language shapes the way we think, often associated with Benjamin Whorf, has long been decried as not only wrong but also fundamentally wrong-headed. Yet, experimental evidence has reopened debate about the extent to which language influences nonlinguistic cognition, particularly in the domain of time. In this article, I will first analyze an influential argument against the Whorfian hypothesis and show that its anti-Whorfian conclusion is in part an artifact of conflating two distinct questions: Do we think in language? and Does language shape thought? Next, I will discuss crosslinguistic differences in spatial metaphors for time and describe experiments that demonstrate corresponding differences in nonlinguistic mental representations. Finally, I will sketch a simple learning mechanism by which some linguistic relativity effects appear to arise. Although people may not think in language, speakers of different languages develop distinctive conceptual repertoires as a consequence of ordinary and presumably universal neural and cognitive processes.
  • Casasanto, D. (2008). Who's afraid of the big bad Whorf? Crosslinguistic differences in temporal language and thought. Language Learning, 58(suppl. 1), 63-79. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9922.2008.00462.x.

    Abstract

    The idea that language shapes the way we think, often associated with Benjamin Whorf, has long been decried as not only wrong but also fundamentally wrong-headed. Yet, experimental evidence has reopened debate about the extent to which language influences nonlinguistic cognition, particularly in the domain of time. In this article, I will first analyze an influential argument against the Whorfian hypothesis and show that its anti-Whorfian conclusion is in part an artifact of conflating two distinct questions: Do we think in language? and Does language shape thought? Next, I will discuss crosslinguistic differences in spatial metaphors for time and describe experiments that demonstrate corresponding differences in nonlinguistic mental representations. Finally, I will sketch a simple learning mechanism by which some linguistic relativity effects appear to arise. Although people may not think in language, speakers of different languages develop distinctive conceptual repertoires as a consequence of ordinary and presumably universal neural and cognitive processes.
  • Casasanto, D. (2008). Similarity and proximity: When does close in space mean close in mind? Memory & Cognition, 36(6), 1047-1056. doi:10.3758/MC.36.6.1047.

    Abstract

    People often describe things that are similar as close and things that are dissimilar as far apart. Does the way people talk about similarity reveal something fundamental about the way they conceptualize it? Three experiments tested the relationship between similarity and spatial proximity that is encoded in metaphors in language. Similarity ratings for pairs of words or pictures varied as a function of how far apart the stimuli appeared on the computer screen, but the influence of distance on similarity differed depending on the type of judgments the participants made. Stimuli presented closer together were rated more similar during conceptual judgments of abstract entities or unseen object properties but were rated less similar during perceptual judgments of visual appearance. These contrasting results underscore the importance of testing predictions based on linguistic metaphors experimentally and suggest that our sense of similarity arises from our ability to combine available perceptual information with stored knowledge of experiential regularities.
  • Dijkstra, K., & Casasanto, D. (2008). Autobiographical memory and motor action [Abstract]. In B. C. Love, K. McRae, & V. M. Sloutsky (Eds.), Proceedings of the 30th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 1549). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.

    Abstract

    Retrieval of autobiographical memories is facilitated by activation of perceptuo-motor aspects of the experience, for example a congruent body position at the time of the experiencing and the time of retelling (Dijkstra, Kaschak, & Zwaan, 2007). The present study examined whether similar retrieval facilitation occurs when the direction of motor action is congruent with the valence of emotional memories. Consistent with evidence that people mentally represent emotions spatially (Casasanto, in press), participants moved marbles between vertically stacked boxes at a higher rate when the direction of movement was congruent with the valence of the memory they retrieved (e.g., upward for positive memories, downward for negative memories) than when direction and valence were incongruent (t(22)=4.24, p<.001). In addition, valence-congruent movements facilitated access to these memories, resulting in shorter retrieval times (t(22)=2.43, p<.05). Results demonstrate bidirectional influences between the emotional content of autobiographical memories and irrelevant motor actions.
  • Folia, V., Uddén, J., Forkstam, C., Ingvar, M., Hagoort, P., & Petersson, K. M. (2008). Implicit learning and dyslexia. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1145, 132-150. doi:10.1196/annals.1416.012.

    Abstract

    Several studies have reported an association between dyslexia and implicit learning deficits. It has been suggested that the weakness in implicit learning observed in dyslexic individuals may be related to sequential processing and implicit sequence learning. In the present article, we review the current literature on implicit learning and dyslexia. We describe a novel, forced-choice structural "mere exposure" artificial grammar learning paradigm and characterize this paradigm in normal readers in relation to the standard grammaticality classification paradigm. We argue that preference classification is a more optimal measure of the outcome of implicit acquisition since in the preference version participants are kept completely unaware of the underlying generative mechanism, while in the grammaticality version, the subjects have, at least in principle, been informed about the existence of an underlying complex set of rules at the point of classification (but not during acquisition). On the basis of the "mere exposure effect," we tested the prediction that the development of preference will correlate with the grammaticality status of the classification items. In addition, we examined the effects of grammaticality (grammatical/nongrammatical) and associative chunk strength (ACS; high/low) on the classification tasks (preference/grammaticality). Using a balanced ACS design in which the factors of grammaticality (grammatical/nongrammatical) and ACS (high/low) were independently controlled in a 2 × 2 factorial design, we confirmed our predictions. We discuss the suitability of this task for further investigation of the implicit learning characteristics in dyslexia.
  • Forkstam, C., Elwér, A., Ingvar, M., & Petersson, K. M. (2008). Instruction effects in implicit artificial grammar learning: A preference for grammaticality. Brain Research, 1221, 80-92. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2008.05.005.

    Abstract

    Human implicit learning can be investigated with implicit artificial grammar learning, a paradigm that has been proposed as a simple model for aspects of natural language acquisition. In the present study we compared the typical yes–no grammaticality classification, with yes–no preference classification. In the case of preference instruction no reference to the underlying generative mechanism (i.e., grammar) is needed and the subjects are therefore completely uninformed about an underlying structure in the acquisition material. In experiment 1, subjects engaged in a short-term memory task using only grammatical strings without performance feedback for 5 days. As a result of the 5 acquisition days, classification performance was independent of instruction type and both the preference and the grammaticality group acquired relevant knowledge of the underlying generative mechanism to a similar degree. Changing the grammatical stings to random strings in the acquisition material (experiment 2) resulted in classification being driven by local substring familiarity. Contrasting repeated vs. non-repeated preference classification (experiment 3) showed that the effect of local substring familiarity decreases with repeated classification. This was not the case for repeated grammaticality classifications. We conclude that classification performance is largely independent of instruction type and that forced-choice preference classification is equivalent to the typical grammaticality classification.
  • Goldin-Meadow, S., Chee So, W., Ozyurek, A., & Mylander, C. (2008). The natural order of events: how speakers of different languages represent events nonverbally. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 105(27), 9163-9168. doi:10.1073/pnas.0710060105.

    Abstract

    To test whether the language we speak influences our behavior even when we are not speaking, we asked speakers of four languages differing in their predominant word orders (English, Turkish, Spanish, and Chinese) to perform two nonverbal tasks: a communicative task (describing an event by using gesture without speech) and a noncommunicative task (reconstructing an event with pictures). We found that the word orders speakers used in their everyday speech did not influence their nonverbal behavior. Surprisingly, speakers of all four languages used the same order and on both nonverbal tasks. This order, actor–patient–act, is analogous to the subject–object–verb pattern found in many languages of the world and, importantly, in newly developing gestural languages. The findings provide evidence for a natural order that we impose on events when describing and reconstructing them nonverbally and exploit when constructing language anew.

    Supplementary material

    GoldinMeadow_2008_naturalSuppl.pdf
  • Hagoort, P. (2008). Mijn omweg naar de filosofie. Algemeen Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Wijsbegeerte, 100(4), 303-310.
  • Hagoort, P., Ramsey, N. F., & Jensen, O. (2008). De gereedschapskist van de cognitieve neurowetenschap. In F. Wijnen, & F. Verstraten (Eds.), Het brein te kijk: Verkenning van de cognitieve neurowetenschap (pp. 41-75). Amsterdam: Harcourt Assessment.
  • Hagoort, P. (2008). Über Broca, Gehirn und Bindung. In Jahrbuch 2008: Tätigkeitsberichte der Institute. München: Generalverwaltung der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. Retrieved from http://www.mpg.de/306524/forschungsSchwerpunkt1?c=166434.

    Abstract

    Beim Sprechen und beim Sprachverstehen findet man die Wortbedeutung im Gedächtnis auf und kombiniert sie zu größeren Einheiten (Unifikation). Solche Unifikations-Operationen laufen auf unterschiedlichen Ebenen der Sprachverarbeitung ab. In diesem Beitrag wird ein Rahmen vorgeschlagen, in dem psycholinguistische Modelle mit neurobiologischer Sprachbetrachtung in Verbindung gebracht werden. Diesem Vorschlag zufolge spielt der linke inferiore frontale Gyrus (LIFG) eine bedeutende Rolle bei der Unifi kation
  • Hagoort, P. (2008). The fractionation of spoken language understanding by measuring electrical and magnetic brain signals. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, 363, 1055-1069. doi:10.1098/rstb.2007.2159.

    Abstract

    This paper focuses on what electrical and magnetic recordings of human brain activity reveal about spoken language understanding. Based on the high temporal resolution of these recordings, a fine-grained temporal profile of different aspects of spoken language comprehension can be obtained. Crucial aspects of speech comprehension are lexical access, selection and semantic integration. Results show that for words spoken in context, there is no ‘magic moment’ when lexical selection ends and semantic integration begins. Irrespective of whether words have early or late recognition points, semantic integration processing is initiated before words can be identified on the basis of the acoustic information alone. Moreover, for one particular event-related brain potential (ERP) component (the N400), equivalent impact of sentence- and discourse-semantic contexts is observed. This indicates that in comprehension, a spoken word is immediately evaluated relative to the widest interpretive domain available. In addition, this happens very quickly. Findings are discussed that show that often an unfolding word can be mapped onto discourse-level representations well before the end of the word. Overall, the time course of the ERP effects is compatible with the view that the different information types (lexical, syntactic, phonological, pragmatic) are processed in parallel and influence the interpretation process incrementally, that is as soon as the relevant pieces of information are available. This is referred to as the immediacy principle.
  • Hagoort, P. (2008). Should psychology ignore the language of the brain? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17(2), 96-101. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8721.2008.00556.x.

    Abstract

    Claims that neuroscientific data do not contribute to our understanding of psychological functions have been made recently. Here I argue that these criticisms are solely based on an analysis of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies. However, fMRI is only one of the methods in the toolkit of cognitive neuroscience. I provide examples from research on event-related brain potentials (ERPs) that have contributed to our understanding of the cognitive architecture of human language functions. In addition, I provide evidence of (possible) contributions from fMRI measurements to our understanding of the functional architecture of language processing. Finally, I argue that a neurobiology of human language that integrates information about the necessary genetic and neural infrastructures will allow us to answer certain questions that are not answerable if all we have is evidence from behavior.
  • Li, X., Hagoort, P., & Yang, Y. (2008). Event-related potential evidence on the influence of accentuation in spoken discourse comprehension in Chinese. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 20(5), 906-915. doi:10.1162/jocn.2008.20512.

    Abstract

    In an event-related potential experiment with Chinese discourses as material, we investigated how and when accentuation influences spoken discourse comprehension in relation to the different information states of the critical words. These words could either provide new or old information. It was shown that variation of accentuation influenced the amplitude of the N400, with a larger amplitude for accented than deaccented words. In addition, there was an interaction between accentuation and information state. The N400 amplitude difference between accented and deaccented new information was smaller than that between accented and deaccented old information. The results demonstrate that, during spoken discourse comprehension, listeners rapidly extract the semantic consequences of accentuation in relation to the previous discourse context. Moreover, our results show that the N400 amplitude can be larger for correct (new,accented words) than incorrect (new, deaccented words) information. This, we argue, proves that the N400 does not react to semantic anomaly per se, but rather to semantic integration load, which is higher for new information.
  • Janzen, G., Jansen, C., & Van Turennout, M. (2008). Memory consolidation of landmarks in good navigators. Hippocampus, 18, 40-47.

    Abstract

    Landmarks play an important role in successful navigation. To successfully find your way around an environment, navigationally relevant information needs to be stored and become available at later moments in time. Evidence from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies shows that the human parahippocampal gyrus encodes the navigational relevance of landmarks. In the present event-related fMRI experiment, we investigated memory consolidation of navigationally relevant landmarks in the medial temporal lobe after route learning. Sixteen right-handed volunteers viewed two film sequences through a virtual museum with objects placed at locations relevant (decision points) or irrelevant (nondecision points) for navigation. To investigate consolidation effects, one film sequence was seen in the evening before scanning, the other one was seen the following morning, directly before scanning. Event-related fMRI data were acquired during an object recognition task. Participants decided whether they had seen the objects in the previously shown films. After scanning, participants answered standardized questions about their navigational skills, and were divided into groups of good and bad navigators, based on their scores. An effect of memory consolidation was obtained in the hippocampus: Objects that were seen the evening before scanning (remote objects) elicited more activity than objects seen directly before scanning (recent objects). This increase in activity in bilateral hippocampus for remote objects was observed in good navigators only. In addition, a spatial-specific effect of memory consolidation for navigationally relevant objects was observed in the parahippocampal gyrus. Remote decision point objects induced increased activity as compared with recent decision point objects, again in good navigators only. The results provide initial evidence for a connection between memory consolidation and navigational ability that can provide a basis for successful navigation.
  • Kho, K. H., Indefrey, P., Hagoort, P., Van Veelen, C. W. M., Van Rijen, P. C., & Ramsey, N. F. (2008). Unimpaired sentence comprehension after anterior temporal cortex resection. Neuropsychologia, 46(4), 1170-1178. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2007.10.014.

    Abstract

    Functional imaging studies have demonstrated involvement of the anterior temporal cortex in sentence comprehension. It is unclear, however, whether the anterior temporal cortex is essential for this function.We studied two aspects of sentence comprehension, namely syntactic and prosodic comprehension in temporal lobe epilepsy patients who were candidates for resection of the anterior temporal lobe. Methods: Temporal lobe epilepsy patients (n = 32) with normal (left) language dominance were tested on syntactic and prosodic comprehension before and after removal of the anterior temporal cortex. The prosodic comprehension test was also compared with performance of healthy control subjects (n = 47) before surgery. Results: Overall, temporal lobe epilepsy patients did not differ from healthy controls in syntactic and prosodic comprehension before surgery. They did perform less well on an affective prosody task. Post-operative testing revealed that syntactic and prosodic comprehension did not change after removal of the anterior temporal cortex. Discussion: The unchanged performance on syntactic and prosodic comprehension after removal of the anterior temporal cortex suggests that this area is not indispensable for sentence comprehension functions in temporal epilepsy patients. Potential implications for the postulated role of the anterior temporal lobe in the healthy brain are discussed.
  • Ladd, D. R., Dediu, D., & Kinsella, A. R. (2008). Reply to Bowles (2008). Biolinguistics, 2(2), 256-259.
  • De Lange, F. P., Koers, A., Kalkman, J. S., Bleijenberg, G., Hagoort, P., Van der Meer, J. W. M., & Toni, I. (2008). Increase in prefrontal cortical volume following cognitive behavioural therapy in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. Brain, 131, 2172-2180. doi:10.1093/brain/awn140.

    Abstract

    Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a disabling disorder, characterized by persistent or relapsing fatigue. Recent studies have detected a decrease in cortical grey matter volume in patients with CFS, but it is unclear whether this cerebral atrophy constitutes a cause or a consequence of the disease. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is an effective behavioural intervention for CFS, which combines a rehabilitative approach of a graded increase in physical activity with a psychological approach that addresses thoughts and beliefs about CFS which may impair recovery. Here, we test the hypothesis that cerebral atrophy may be a reversible state that can ameliorate with successful CBT. We have quantified cerebral structural changes in 22 CFS patients that underwent CBT and 22 healthy control participants. At baseline, CFS patients had significantly lower grey matter volume than healthy control participants. CBT intervention led to a significant improvement in health status, physical activity and cognitive performance. Crucially, CFS patients showed a significant increase in grey matter volume, localized in the lateral prefrontal cortex. This change in cerebral volume was related to improvements in cognitive speed in the CFS patients. Our findings indicate that the cerebral atrophy associated with CFS is partially reversed after effective CBT. This result provides an example of macroscopic cortical plasticity in the adult human brain, demonstrating a surprisingly dynamic relation between behavioural state and cerebral anatomy. Furthermore, our results reveal a possible neurobiological substrate of psychotherapeutic treatment.
  • Nieuwland, M. S., & Van Berkum, J. J. A. (2008). The interplay between semantic and referential aspects of anaphoric noun phrase resolution: Evidence from ERPs. Brain & Language, 106, 119-131. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2008.05.001.

    Abstract

    In this event-related brain potential (ERP) study, we examined how semantic and referential aspects of anaphoric noun phrase resolution interact during discourse comprehension. We used a full factorial design that crossed referential ambiguity with semantic incoherence. Ambiguous anaphors elicited a sustained negative shift (Nref effect), and incoherent anaphors elicited an N400 effect. Simultaneously ambiguous and incoherent anaphors elicited an ERP pattern resembling that of the incoherent anaphors. These results suggest that semantic incoherence can preclude readers from engaging in anaphoric inferencing. Furthermore, approximately half of our participants unexpectedly showed common late positive effects to the three types of problematic anaphors. We relate the latter finding to recent accounts of what the P600 might reflect, and to the role of individual differences therein.
  • Nieuwland, M. S., & Van Berkum, J. J. A. (2008). The neurocognition of referential ambiguity in language comprehension. Language and Linguistics Compass, 2(4), 603-630. doi:10.1111/j.1749-818x.2008.00070.x.

    Abstract

    Referential ambiguity arises whenever readers or listeners are unable to select a unique referent for a linguistic expression out of multiple candidates. In the current article, we review a series of neurocognitive experiments from our laboratory that examine the neural correlates of referential ambiguity, and that employ the brain signature of referential ambiguity to derive functional properties of the language comprehension system. The results of our experiments converge to show that referential ambiguity resolution involves making an inference to evaluate the referential candidates. These inferences only take place when both referential candidates are, at least initially, equally plausible antecedents. Whether comprehenders make these anaphoric inferences is strongly context dependent and co-determined by characteristics of the reader. In addition, readers appear to disregard referential ambiguity when the competing candidates are each semantically incoherent, suggesting that, under certain circumstances, semantic analysis can proceed even when referential analysis has not yielded a unique antecedent. Finally, results from a functional neuroimaging study suggest that whereas the neural systems that deal with referential ambiguity partially overlap with those that deal with referential failure, they show an inverse coupling with the neural systems associated with semantic processing, possibly reflecting the relative contributions of semantic and episodic processing to re-establish semantic and referential coherence, respectively.
  • Otten, M., & Van Berkum, J. J. A. (2008). Discourse-based word anticipation during language processing: Prediction of priming? Discourse Processes, 45, 464-496. doi:10.1080/01638530802356463.

    Abstract

    Language is an intrinsically open-ended system. This fact has led to the widely shared assumption that readers and listeners do not predict upcoming words, at least not in a way that goes beyond simple priming between words. Recent evidence, however, suggests that readers and listeners do anticipate upcoming words “on the fly” as a text unfolds. In 2 event-related potentials experiments, this study examined whether these predictions are based on the exact message conveyed by the prior discourse or on simpler word-based priming mechanisms. Participants read texts that strongly supported the prediction of a specific word, mixed with non-predictive control texts that contained the same prime words. In Experiment 1A, anomalous words that replaced a highly predictable (as opposed to a non-predictable but coherent) word elicited a long-lasting positive shift, suggesting that the prior discourse had indeed led people to predict specific words. In Experiment 1B, adjectives whose suffix mismatched the predictable noun's syntactic gender elicited a short-lived late negativity in predictive stories but not in prime control stories. Taken together, these findings reveal that the conceptual basis for predicting specific upcoming words during reading is the exact message conveyed by the discourse and not the mere presence of prime words.
  • Ozyurek, A., Kita, S., Allen, S., Brown, A., Furman, R., & Ishizuka, T. (2008). Development of cross-linguistic variation in speech and gesture: motion events in English and Turkish. Developmental Psychology, 44(4), 1040-1054. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.44.4.1040.

    Abstract

    The way adults express manner and path components of a motion event varies across typologically different languages both in speech and cospeech gestures, showing that language specificity in event encoding influences gesture. The authors tracked when and how this multimodal cross-linguistic variation develops in children learning Turkish and English, 2 typologically distinct languages. They found that children learn to speak in language-specific ways from age 3 onward (i.e., English speakers used 1 clause and Turkish speakers used 2 clauses to express manner and path). In contrast, English- and Turkish-speaking children’s gestures looked similar at ages 3 and 5 (i.e., separate gestures for manner and path), differing from each other only at age 9 and in adulthood (i.e., English speakers used 1 gesture, but Turkish speakers used separate gestures for manner and path). The authors argue that this pattern of the development of cospeech gestures reflects a gradual shift to language-specific representations during speaking and shows that looking at speech alone may not be sufficient to understand the full process of language acquisition.
  • Patel, A. D., Iversen, J. R., Wassenaar, M., & Hagoort, P. (2008). Musical syntactic processing in agrammatic Broca's aphasia. Aphasiology, 22(7/8), 776-789. doi:10.1080/02687030701803804.

    Abstract

    Background: Growing evidence for overlap in the syntactic processing of language and music in non-brain-damaged individuals leads to the question of whether aphasic individuals with grammatical comprehension problems in language also have problems processing structural relations in music. Aims: The current study sought to test musical syntactic processing in individuals with Broca's aphasia and grammatical comprehension deficits, using both explicit and implicit tasks. Methods & Procedures: Two experiments were conducted. In the first experiment 12 individuals with Broca's aphasia (and 14 matched controls) were tested for their sensitivity to grammatical and semantic relations in sentences, and for their sensitivity to musical syntactic (harmonic) relations in chord sequences. An explicit task (acceptability judgement of novel sequences) was used. The second experiment, with 9 individuals with Broca's aphasia (and 12 matched controls), probed musical syntactic processing using an implicit task (harmonic priming). Outcomes & Results: In both experiments the aphasic group showed impaired processing of musical syntactic relations. Control experiments indicated that this could not be attributed to low-level problems with the perception of pitch patterns or with auditory short-term memory for tones. Conclusions: The results suggest that musical syntactic processing in agrammatic aphasia deserves systematic investigation, and that such studies could help probe the nature of the processing deficits underlying linguistic agrammatism. Methodological suggestions are offered for future work in this little-explored area.
  • Perniss, P. M., & Ozyurek, A. (2008). Representations of action, motion and location in sign space: A comparison of German (DGS) and Turkish (TID) sign language narratives. In J. Quer (Ed.), Signs of the time: Selected papers from TISLR 8 (pp. 353-376). Seedorf: Signum Press.
  • Petersson, K. M. (2008). On cognition, structured sequence processing, and adaptive dynamical systems. American Institute of Physics Conference Proceedings, 1060(1), 195-200.

    Abstract

    Cognitive neuroscience approaches the brain as a cognitive system: a system that functionally is conceptualized in terms of information processing. We outline some aspects of this concept and consider a physical system to be an information processing device when a subclass of its physical states can be viewed as representational/cognitive and transitions between these can be conceptualized as a process operating on these states by implementing operations on the corresponding representational structures. We identify a generic and fundamental problem in cognition: sequentially organized structured processing. Structured sequence processing provides the brain, in an essential sense, with its processing logic. In an approach addressing this problem, we illustrate how to integrate levels of analysis within a framework of adaptive dynamical systems. We note that the dynamical system framework lends itself to a description of asynchronous event-driven devices, which is likely to be important in cognition because the brain appears to be an asynchronous processing system. We use the human language faculty and natural language processing as a concrete example through out.
  • Scheeringa, R., Bastiaansen, M. C. M., Petersson, K. M., Oostenveld, R., Norris, D. G., & Hagoort, P. (2008). Frontal theta EEG activity correlates negatively with the default mode network in resting state. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 67, 242-251. doi:10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2007.05.017.

    Abstract

    We used simultaneously recorded EEG and fMRI to investigate in which areas the BOLD signal correlates with frontal theta power changes, while subjects were quietly lying resting in the scanner with their eyes open. To obtain a reliable estimate of frontal theta power we applied ICA on band-pass filtered (2–9 Hz) EEG data. For each subject we selected the component that best matched the mid-frontal scalp topography associated with the frontal theta rhythm. We applied a time-frequency analysis on this component and used the time course of the frequency bin with the highest overall power to form a regressor that modeled spontaneous fluctuations in frontal theta power. No significant positive BOLD correlations with this regressor were observed. Extensive negative correlations were observed in the areas that together form the default mode network. We conclude that frontal theta activity can be seen as an EEG index of default mode network activity.
  • Senghas, A., Kita, S., & Ozyurek, A. (2008). Children creating core properties of language: Evidence from an emerging sign language in Nicaragua. In K. A. Lindgren, D. DeLuca, & D. J. Napoli (Eds.), Signs and Voices: Deaf Culture, Identity, Language, and Arts. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.
  • Toni, I., De Lange, F. P., Noordzij, M. L., & Hagoort, P. (2008). Language beyond action. Journal of Physiology, 102, 71-79. doi:10.1016/j.jphysparis.2008.03.005.

    Abstract

    The discovery of mirror neurons in macaques and of a similar system in humans has provided a new and fertile neurobiological ground for rooting a variety of cognitive faculties. Automatic sensorimotor resonance has been invoked as the key elementary process accounting for disparate (dys)functions, like imitation, ideomotor apraxia, autism, and schizophrenia. In this paper, we provide a critical appraisal of three of these claims that deal with the relationship between language and the motor system. Does language comprehension require the motor system? Was there an evolutionary switch from manual gestures to speech as the primary mode of language? Is human communication explained by automatic sensorimotor resonances? A positive answer to these questions would open the tantalizing possibility of bringing language and human communication within the fold of the motor system. We argue that the available empirical evidence does not appear to support these claims, and their theoretical scope fails to account for some crucial features of the phenomena they are supposed to explain. Without denying the enormous importance of the discovery of mirror neurons, we highlight the limits of their explanatory power for understanding language and communication.
  • Uddén, J., Folia, V., Forkstam, C., Ingvar, M., Fernández, G., Overeem, S., Van Elswijk, G., Hagoort, P., & Petersson, K. M. (2008). The inferior frontal cortex in artificial syntax processing: An rTMS study. Brain Research, 1224, 69-78. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2008.05.070.

    Abstract

    The human capacity to implicitly acquire knowledge of structured sequences has recently been investigated in artificial grammar learning using functional magnetic resonance imaging. It was found that the left inferior frontal cortex (IFC; Brodmann's area (BA) 44/45) was related to classification performance. The objective of this study was to investigate whether the IFC (BA 44/45) is causally related to classification of artificial syntactic structures by means of an off-line repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) paradigm. We manipulated the stimulus material in a 2 × 2 factorial design with grammaticality status and local substring familiarity as factors. The participants showed a reliable effect of grammaticality on classification of novel items after 5days of exposure to grammatical exemplars without performance feedback in an implicit acquisition task. The results show that rTMS of BA 44/45 improves syntactic classification performance by increasing the rejection rate of non-grammatical items and by shortening reaction times of correct rejections specifically after left-sided stimulation. A similar pattern of results is observed in FMRI experiments on artificial syntactic classification. These results suggest that activity in the inferior frontal region is causally related to artificial syntax processing.
  • Van Heuven, W. J. B., Schriefers, H., Dijkstra, T., & Hagoort, P. (2008). Language conflict in the bilingual brain. Cerebral Cortex, 18(11), 2706-2716. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhn030.

    Abstract

    The large majority of humankind is more or less fluent in 2 or even more languages. This raises the fundamental question how the language network in the brain is organized such that the correct target language is selected at a particular occasion. Here we present behavioral and functional magnetic resonance imaging data showing that bilingual processing leads to language conflict in the bilingual brain even when the bilinguals’ task only required target language knowledge. This finding demonstrates that the bilingual brain cannot avoid language conflict, because words from the target and nontarget languages become automatically activated during reading. Importantly, stimulus-based language conflict was found in brain regions in the LIPC associated with phonological and semantic processing, whereas response-based language conflict was only found in the pre-supplementary motor area/anterior cingulate cortex when language conflict leads to response conflicts.
  • Van Berkum, J. J. A. (2008). Understanding sentences in context: What brain waves can tell us. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17(6), 376-380. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8721.2008.00609.x.

    Abstract

    Language comprehension looks pretty easy. You pick up a novel and simply enjoy the plot, or ponder the human condition. You strike a conversation and listen to whatever the other person has to say. Although what you're taking in is a bunch of letters and sounds, what you really perceive—if all goes well—is meaning. But how do you get from one to the other so easily? The experiments with brain waves (event-related brain potentials or ERPs) reviewed here show that the linguistic brain rapidly draws upon a wide variety of information sources, including prior text and inferences about the speaker. Furthermore, people anticipate what might be said about whom, they use heuristics to arrive at the earliest possible interpretation, and if it makes sense, they sometimes even ignore the grammar. Language comprehension is opportunistic, proactive, and, above all, immediately context-dependent.
  • Van Berkum, J. J. A., Van den Brink, D., Tesink, C. M. J. Y., Kos, M., & Hagoort, P. (2008). The neural integration of speaker and message. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 20(4), 580-591. doi:10.1162/jocn.2008.20054.

    Abstract

    When do listeners take into account who the speaker is? We asked people to listen to utterances whose content sometimes did not match inferences based on the identity of the speaker (e.g., “If only I looked like Britney Spears” in a male voice, or “I have a large tattoo on my back” spoken with an upper-class accent). Event-related brain responses revealed that the speaker's identity is taken into account as early as 200–300 msec after the beginning of a spoken word, and is processed by the same early interpretation mechanism that constructs sentence meaning based on just the words. This finding is difficult to reconcile with standard “Gricean” models of sentence interpretation in which comprehenders initially compute a local, context-independent meaning for the sentence (“semantics”) before working out what it really means given the wider communicative context and the particular speaker (“pragmatics”). Because the observed brain response hinges on voice-based and usually stereotype-dependent inferences about the speaker, it also shows that listeners rapidly classify speakers on the basis of their voices and bring the associated social stereotypes to bear on what is being said. According to our event-related potential results, language comprehension takes very rapid account of the social context, and the construction of meaning based on language alone cannot be separated from the social aspects of language use. The linguistic brain relates the message to the speaker immediately.
  • Willems, R. M., Ozyurek, A., & Hagoort, P. (2008). Seeing and hearing meaning: ERP and fMRI evidence of word versus picture integration into a sentence context. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 20, 1235-1249. doi:10.1162/jocn.2008.20085.

    Abstract

    Understanding language always occurs within a situational context and, therefore, often implies combining streams of information from different domains and modalities. One such combination is that of spoken language and visual information, which are perceived together in a variety of ways during everyday communication. Here we investigate whether and how words and pictures differ in terms of their neural correlates when they are integrated into a previously built-up sentence context. This is assessed in two experiments looking at the time course (measuring event-related potentials, ERPs) and the locus (using functional magnetic resonance imaging, fMRI) of this integration process. We manipulated the ease of semantic integration of word and/or picture to a previous sentence context to increase the semantic load of processing. In the ERP study, an increased semantic load led to an N400 effect which was similar for pictures and words in terms of latency and amplitude. In the fMRI study, we found overlapping activations to both picture and word integration in the left inferior frontal cortex. Specific activations for the integration of a word were observed in the left superior temporal cortex. We conclude that despite obvious differences in representational format, semantic information coming from pictures and words is integrated into a sentence context in similar ways in the brain. This study adds to the growing insight that the language system incorporates (semantic) information coming from linguistic and extralinguistic domains with the same neural time course and by recruitment of overlapping brain areas.
  • Willems, R. M., Oostenveld, R., & Hagoort, P. (2008). Early decreases in alpha and gamma band power distinguish linguistic from visual information during spoken sentence comprehension. Brain Research, 1219, 78-90. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2008.04.065.

    Abstract

    Language is often perceived together with visual information. This raises the question on how the brain integrates information conveyed in visual and/or linguistic format during spoken language comprehension. In this study we investigated the dynamics of semantic integration of visual and linguistic information by means of time-frequency analysis of the EEG signal. A modified version of the N400 paradigm with either a word or a picture of an object being semantically incongruous with respect to the preceding sentence context was employed. Event-Related Potential (ERP) analysis showed qualitatively similar N400 effects for integration of either word or picture. Time-frequency analysis revealed early specific decreases in alpha and gamma band power for linguistic and visual information respectively. We argue that these reflect a rapid context-based analysis of acoustic (word) or visual (picture) form information. We conclude that although full semantic integration of linguistic and visual information occurs through a common mechanism, early differences in oscillations in specific frequency bands reflect the format of the incoming information and, importantly, an early context-based detection of its congruity with respect to the preceding language context
  • Li, X., Yang, Y., & Hagoort, P. (2008). Pitch accent and lexical tone processing in Chinese discourse comprehension: An ERP study. Brain Research, 1222, 192-200. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2008.05.031.

    Abstract

    In the present study, event-related brain potentials (ERP) were recorded to investigate the role of pitch accent and lexical tone in spoken discourse comprehension. Chinese was used as material to explore the potential difference in the nature and time course of brain responses to sentence meaning as indicated by pitch accent and to lexical meaning as indicated by tone. In both cases, the pitch contour of critical words was varied. The results showed that both inconsistent pitch accent and inconsistent lexical tone yielded N400 effects, and there was no interaction between them. The negativity evoked by inconsistent pitch accent had the some topography as that evoked by inconsistent lexical tone violation, with a maximum over central–parietal electrodes. Furthermore, the effect for the combined violations was the sum of effects for pure pitch accent and pure lexical tone violation. However, the effect for the lexical tone violation appeared approximately 90 ms earlier than the effect of the pitch accent violation. It is suggested that there might be a correspondence between the neural mechanism underlying pitch accent and lexical meaning processing in context. They both reflect the integration of the current information into a discourse context, independent of whether the current information was sentence meaning indicated by accentuation, or lexical meaning indicated by tone. In addition, lexical meaning was processed earlier than sentence meaning conveyed by pitch accent during spoken language processing.
  • Zwitserlood, I., Ozyurek, A., & Perniss, P. M. (2008). Annotation of sign and gesture cross-linguistically. In O. Crasborn, E. Efthimiou, T. Hanke, E. D. Thoutenhoofd, & I. Zwitserlood (Eds.), Construction and Exploitation of Sign Language Corpora. 3rd Workshop on the Representation and Processing of Sign Languages (pp. 185-190). Paris: ELDA.

    Abstract

    This paper discusses the construction of a cross-linguistic, bimodal corpus containing three modes of expression: expressions from two sign languages, speech and gestural expressions in two spoken languages and pantomimic expressions by users of two spoken languages who are requested to convey information without speaking. We discuss some problems and tentative solutions for the annotation of utterances expressing spatial information about referents in these three modes, suggesting a set of comparable codes for the description of both sign and gesture. Furthermore, we discuss the processing of entered annotations in ELAN, e.g. relating descriptive annotations to analytic annotations in all three modes and performing relational searches across annotations on different tiers.

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