Publications

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  • Acheson, D. J., & Hagoort, P. (2014). Twisting tongues to test for conflict monitoring in speech production. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8: 206. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2014.00206.

    Abstract

    A number of recent studies have hypothesized that monitoring in speech production may occur via domain-general mechanisms responsible for the detection of response conflict. Outside of language, two ERP components have consistently been elicited in conflict-inducing tasks (e.g., the flanker task): the stimulus-locked N2 on correct trials, and the response-locked error-related negativity (ERN). The present investigation used these electrophysiological markers to test whether a common response conflict monitor is responsible for monitoring in speech and non-speech tasks. Electroencephalography (EEG) was recorded while participants performed a tongue twister (TT) task and a manual version of the flanker task. In the TT task, people rapidly read sequences of four nonwords arranged in TT and non-TT patterns three times. In the flanker task, people responded with a left/right button press to a center-facing arrow, and conflict was manipulated by the congruency of the flanking arrows. Behavioral results showed typical effects of both tasks, with increased error rates and slower speech onset times for TT relative to non-TT trials and for incongruent relative to congruent flanker trials. In the flanker task, stimulus-locked EEG analyses replicated previous results, with a larger N2 for incongruent relative to congruent trials, and a response-locked ERN. In the TT task, stimulus-locked analyses revealed broad, frontally-distributed differences beginning around 50 ms and lasting until just before speech initiation, with TT trials more negative than non-TT trials; response-locked analyses revealed an ERN. Correlation across these measures showed some correlations within a task, but little evidence of systematic cross-task correlation. Although the present results do not speak against conflict signals from the production system serving as cues to self-monitoring, they are not consistent with signatures of response conflict being mediated by a single, domain-general conflict monitor
  • Araújo, S., Faísca, L., Bramão, I., Petersson, K. M., & Reis, A. (2014). Lexical and phonological processes in dyslexic readers: Evidences from a visual lexical decision task. Dyslexia, 20, 38-53. doi:10.1002/dys.1461.

    Abstract

    The aim of the present study was to investigate whether reading failure in the context of an orthography of intermediate consistency is linked to inefficient use of the lexical orthographic reading procedure. The performance of typically developing and dyslexic Portuguese-speaking children was examined in a lexical decision task, where the stimulus lexicality, word frequency and length were manipulated. Both lexicality and length effects were larger in the dyslexic group than in controls, although the interaction between group and frequency disappeared when the data were transformed to control for general performance factors. Children with dyslexia were influenced in lexical decision making by the stimulus length of words and pseudowords, whereas age-matched controls were influenced by the length of pseudowords only. These findings suggest that non-impaired readers rely mainly on lexical orthographic information, but children with dyslexia preferentially use the phonological decoding procedure—albeit poorly—most likely because they struggle to process orthographic inputs as a whole such as controls do. Accordingly, dyslexic children showed significantly poorer performance than controls for all types of stimuli, including words that could be considered over-learned, such as high-frequency words. This suggests that their orthographic lexical entries are less established in the orthographic lexicon
  • Basnakova, J., Weber, K., Petersson, K. M., Van Berkum, J. J. A., & Hagoort, P. (2014). Beyond the language given: The neural correlates of inferring speaker meaning. Cerebral Cortex, 24(10), 2572-2578. doi:10.1093/cercor/bht112.

    Abstract

    Even though language allows us to say exactly what we mean, we often use language to say things indirectly, in a way that depends on the specific communicative context. For example, we can use an apparently straightforward sentence like "It is hard to give a good presentation" to convey deeper meanings, like "Your talk was a mess!" One of the big puzzles in language science is how listeners work out what speakers really mean, which is a skill absolutely central to communication. However, most neuroimaging studies of language comprehension have focused on the arguably much simpler, context-independent process of understanding direct utterances. To examine the neural systems involved in getting at contextually constrained indirect meaning, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging as people listened to indirect replies in spoken dialog. Relative to direct control utterances, indirect replies engaged dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, right temporo-parietal junction and insula, as well as bilateral inferior frontal gyrus and right medial temporal gyrus. This suggests that listeners take the speaker's perspective on both cognitive (theory of mind) and affective (empathy-like) levels. In line with classic pragmatic theories, our results also indicate that currently popular "simulationist" accounts of language comprehension fail to explain how listeners understand the speaker's intended message.
  • Cai, D., Fonteijn, H. M., Guadalupe, T., Zwiers, M., Wittfeld, K., Teumer, A., Hoogman, M., Arias Vásquez, A., Yang, Y., Buitelaar, J., Fernández, G., Brunner, H. G., Van Bokhoven, H., Franke, B., Hegenscheid, K., Homuth, G., Fisher, S. E., Grabe, H. J., Francks, C., & Hagoort, P. (2014). A genome wide search for quantitative trait loci affecting the cortical surface area and thickness of Heschl's gyrus. Genes, Brain and Behavior, 13, 675-685. doi:10.1111/gbb.12157.

    Abstract

    Heschl's gyrus (HG) is a core region of the auditory cortex whose morphology is highly variable across individuals. This variability has been linked to sound perception ability in both speech and music domains. Previous studies show that variations in morphological features of HG, such as cortical surface area and thickness, are heritable. To identify genetic variants that affect HG morphology, we conducted a genome-wide association scan (GWAS) meta-analysis in 3054 healthy individuals using HG surface area and thickness as quantitative traits. None of the single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) showed association P values that would survive correction for multiple testing over the genome. The most significant association was found between right HG area and SNP rs72932726 close to gene DCBLD2 (3q12.1; P=2.77x10(-7)). This SNP was also associated with other regions involved in speech processing. The SNP rs333332 within gene KALRN (3q21.2; P=2.27x10(-6)) and rs143000161 near gene COBLL1 (2q24.3; P=2.40x10(-6)) were associated with the area and thickness of left HG, respectively. Both genes are involved in the development of the nervous system. The SNP rs7062395 close to the X-linked deafness gene POU3F4 was associated with right HG thickness (Xq21.1; P=2.38x10(-6)). This is the first molecular genetic analysis of variability in HG morphology
  • Capilla, A., Schoffelen, J.-M., Paterson, G., Thut, G., & Gross, J. (2014). Dissociated α-band modulations in the dorsal and ventral visual pathways in visuospatial attention and perception. Cerebral Cortex., 24(2), 550-561. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhs343.

    Abstract

    Modulations of occipito-parietal α-band (8–14 Hz) power that are opposite in direction (α-enhancement vs. α-suppression) and origin of generation (ipsilateral vs. contralateral to the locus of attention) are a robust correlate of anticipatory visuospatial attention. Yet, the neural generators of these α-band modulations, their interdependence across homotopic areas, and their respective contribution to subsequent perception remain unclear. To shed light on these questions, we employed magnetoencephalography, while human volunteers performed a spatially cued detection task. Replicating previous findings, we found α-power enhancement ipsilateral to the attended hemifield and contralateral α-suppression over occipitoparietal sensors. Source localization (beamforming) analysis showed that α-enhancement and suppression were generated in 2 distinct brain regions, located in the dorsal and ventral visual streams, respectively. Moreover, α-enhancement and suppression showed different dynamics and contribution to perception. In contrast to the initial and transient dorsal α-enhancement, α-suppression in ventro-lateral occipital cortex was sustained and influenced subsequent target detection. This anticipatory biasing of ventrolateral extrastriate α-activity probably reflects increased receptivity in the brain region specialized in processing upcoming target features. Our results add to current models on the role of α-oscillations in attention orienting by showing that α-enhancement and suppression can be dissociated in time, space, and perceptual relevance.

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    Capilla_Suppl_Data.pdf
  • Chang, F., & Fitz, H. (2014). Computational models of sentence production: A dual-path approach. In M. Goldrick, & M. Miozzo (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of language production (pp. 70-89). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Abstract

    Sentence production is the process we use to create language-specific sentences that convey particular meanings. In production, there are complex interactions between meaning, words, and syntax at different points in sentences. Computational models can make these interactions explicit and connectionist learning algorithms have been useful for building such models. Connectionist models use domaingeneral mechanisms to learn internal representations and these mechanisms can also explain evidence of long-term syntactic adaptation in adult speakers. This paper will review work showing that these models can generalize words in novel ways and learn typologically-different languages like English and Japanese. It will also present modeling work which shows that connectionist learning algorithms can account for complex sentence production in children and adult production phenomena like structural priming, heavy NP shift, and conceptual/lexical accessibility.
  • Chu, M., Meyer, A. S., Foulkes, L., & Kita, S. (2014). Individual differences in frequency and saliency of speech-accompanying gestures: The role of cognitive abilities and empathy. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143, 694-709. doi:10.1037/a0033861.

    Abstract

    The present study concerns individual differences in gesture production. We used correlational and multiple regression analyses to examine the relationship between individuals’ cognitive abilities and empathy levels and their gesture frequency and saliency. We chose predictor variables according to experimental evidence of the functions of gesture in speech production and communication. We examined 3 types of gestures: representational gestures, conduit gestures, and palm-revealing gestures. Higher frequency of representational gestures was related to poorer visual and spatial working memory, spatial transformation ability, and conceptualization ability; higher frequency of conduit gestures was related to poorer visual working memory, conceptualization ability, and higher levels of empathy; and higher frequency of palm-revealing gestures was related to higher levels of empathy. The saliency of all gestures was positively related to level of empathy. These results demonstrate that cognitive abilities and empathy levels are related to individual differences in gesture frequency and saliency
  • Chu, M., & Hagoort, P. (2014). Synchronization of speech and gesture: Evidence for interaction in action. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143(4), 1726-1741. doi:10.1037/a0036281.

    Abstract

    Language and action systems are highly interlinked. A critical piece of evidence is that speech and its accompanying gestures are tightly synchronized. Five experiments were conducted to test 2 hypotheses about the synchronization of speech and gesture. According to the interactive view, there is continuous information exchange between the gesture and speech systems, during both their planning and execution phases. According to the ballistic view, information exchange occurs only during the planning phases of gesture and speech, but the 2 systems become independent once their execution has been initiated. In all experiments, participants were required to point to and/or name a light that had just lit up. Virtual reality and motion tracking technologies were used to disrupt their gesture or speech execution. Participants delayed their speech onset when their gesture was disrupted. They did so even when their gesture was disrupted at its late phase and even when they received only the kinesthetic feedback of their gesture. Also, participants prolonged their gestures when their speech was disrupted. These findings support the interactive view and add new constraints on models of speech and gesture production
  • Cristia, A., Minagawa-Kawai, Y., Egorova, N., Gervain, J., Filippin, L., Cabrol, D., & Dupoux, E. (2014). Neural correlates of infant accent discrimination: An fNIRS study. Developmental Science, 17(4), 628-635. doi:10.1111/desc.12160.

    Abstract

    The present study investigated the neural correlates of infant discrimination of very similar linguistic varieties (Quebecois and Parisian French) using functional Near InfraRed Spectroscopy. In line with previous behavioral and electrophysiological data, there was no evidence that 3-month-olds discriminated the two regional accents, whereas 5-month-olds did, with the locus of discrimination in left anterior perisylvian regions. These neuroimaging results suggest that a developing language network relying crucially on left perisylvian cortices sustains infants' discrimination of similar linguistic varieties within this early period of infancy.

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  • Cristia, A., Seidl, A., Junge, C., Soderstrom, M., & Hagoort, P. (2014). Predicting individual variation in language from infant speech perception measures. Child development, 85(4), 1330-1345. doi:10.1111/cdev.12193.

    Abstract

    There are increasing reports that individual variation in behavioral and neurophysiological measures of infant speech processing predicts later language outcomes, and specifically concurrent or subsequent vocabulary size. If such findings are held up under scrutiny, they could both illuminate theoretical models of language development and contribute to the prediction of communicative disorders. A qualitative, systematic review of this emergent literature illustrated the variety of approaches that have been used and highlighted some conceptual problems regarding the measurements. A quantitative analysis of the same data established that the bivariate relation was significant, with correlations of similar strength to those found for well-established nonlinguistic predictors of language. Further exploration of infant speech perception predictors, particularly from a methodological perspective, is recommended.
  • Cristia, A., & Seidl, A. (2014). The hyperarticulation hypothesis of infant-directed speech. Journal of Child Language, 41(4), 913-934. doi:10.1017/S0305000912000669.

    Abstract

    Typically, the point vowels [i,ɑ,u] are acoustically more peripheral in infant-directed speech (IDS) compared to adult-directed speech (ADS). If caregivers seek to highlight lexically relevant contrasts in IDS, then two sounds that are contrastive should become more distinct, whereas two sounds that are surface realizations of the same underlying sound category should not. To test this prediction, vowels that are phonemically contrastive ([i-ɪ] and [eɪ-ε]), vowels that map onto the same underlying category ([æ- ] and [ε- ]), and the point vowels [i,ɑ,u] were elicited in IDS and ADS by American English mothers of two age groups of infants (four- and eleven-month-olds). As in other work, point vowels were produced in more peripheral positions in IDS compared to ADS. However, there was little evidence of hyperarticulation per se (e.g. [i-ɪ] was hypoarticulated). We suggest that across-the-board lexically based hyperarticulation is not a necessary feature of IDS.

    Additional information

    CORRIGENDUM
  • Dautriche, I., Cristia, A., Brusini, P., Yuan, S., Fisher, C., & Christophe, A. (2014). Toddlers default to canonical surface-to-meaning mapping when learning verbs. Child Development, 85(3), 1168-1180. doi:10.1111/cdev.12183.

    Abstract

    This work was supported by grants from the French Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR-2010-BLAN-1901) and from French Fondation de France to Anne Christophe, from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD054448) to Cynthia Fisher, Fondation Fyssen and Ecole de Neurosciences de Paris to Alex Cristia, and a PhD fellowship from the Direction Générale de l'Armement (DGA, France) supported by the PhD program FdV (Frontières du Vivant) to Isabelle Dautriche. We thank Isabelle Brunet for the recruitment, Michel Dutat for the technical support, and Hernan Anllo for his puppet mastery skill. We are grateful to the families that participated in this study. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript.
  • Dolscheid, S., Hunnius, S., Casasanto, D., & Majid, A. (2014). Prelinguistic infants are sensitive to space-pitch associations found across cultures. Psychological Science, 25(6), 1256-1261. doi:10.1177/0956797614528521.

    Abstract

    People often talk about musical pitch using spatial metaphors. In English, for instance, pitches can be “high” or “low” (i.e., height-pitch association), whereas in other languages, pitches are described as “thin” or “thick” (i.e., thickness-pitch association). According to results from psychophysical studies, metaphors in language can shape people’s nonlinguistic space-pitch representations. But does language establish mappings between space and pitch in the first place, or does it only modify preexisting associations? To find out, we tested 4-month-old Dutch infants’ sensitivity to height-pitch and thickness-pitch mappings using a preferential-looking paradigm. The infants looked significantly longer at cross-modally congruent stimuli for both space-pitch mappings, which indicates that infants are sensitive to these associations before language acquisition. The early presence of space-pitch mappings means that these associations do not originate from language. Instead, language builds on preexisting mappings, changing them gradually via competitive associative learning. Space-pitch mappings that are language-specific in adults develop from mappings that may be universal in infants.
  • Dolscheid, S., Willems, R. M., Hagoort, P., & Casasanto, D. (2014). The relation of space and musical pitch in the brain. In P. Bello, M. Guarini, M. McShane, & B. Scassellati (Eds.), Proceedings of the 36th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2014) (pp. 421-426). Austin, Tx: Cognitive Science Society.

    Abstract

    Numerous experiments show that space and musical pitch are closely linked in people's minds. However, the exact nature of space-pitch associations and their neuronal underpinnings are not well understood. In an fMRI experiment we investigated different types of spatial representations that may underlie musical pitch. Participants judged stimuli that varied in spatial height in both the visual and tactile modalities, as well as auditory stimuli that varied in pitch height. In order to distinguish between unimodal and multimodal spatial bases of musical pitch, we examined whether pitch activations were present in modality-specific (visual or tactile) versus multimodal (visual and tactile) regions active during spatial height processing. Judgments of musical pitch were found to activate unimodal visual areas, suggesting that space-pitch associations may involve modality-specific spatial representations, supporting a key assumption of embodied theories of metaphorical mental representation.
  • Fitz, H. (2014). Computermodelle für Spracherwerb und Sprachproduktion. Forschungsbericht 2014 - Max-Planck-Institut für Psycholinguistik. In Max-Planck-Gesellschaft Jahrbuch 2014. München: Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science. Retrieved from http://www.mpg.de/7850678/Psycholinguistik_JB_2014?c=8236817.

    Abstract

    Relative clauses are a syntactic device to create complex sentences and they make language structurally productive. Despite a considerable number of experimental studies, it is still largely unclear how children learn relative clauses and how these are processed in the language system. Researchers at the MPI for Psycholinguistics used a computational learning model to gain novel insights into these issues. The model explains the differential development of relative clauses in English as well as cross-linguistic differences
  • Folia, V., & Petersson, K. M. (2014). Implicit structured sequence learning: An fMRI study of the structural mere-exposure effect. Frontiers in Psychology, 5: 41. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00041.

    Abstract

    In this event-related FMRI study we investigated the effect of five days of implicit acquisition on preference classification by means of an artificial grammar learning (AGL) paradigm based on the structural mere-exposure effect and preference classification using a simple right-linear unification grammar. This allowed us to investigate implicit AGL in a proper learning design by including baseline measurements prior to grammar exposure. After 5 days of implicit acquisition, the FMRI results showed activations in a network of brain regions including the inferior frontal (centered on BA 44/45) and the medial prefrontal regions (centered on BA 8/32). Importantly, and central to this study, the inclusion of a naive preference FMRI baseline measurement allowed us to conclude that these FMRI findings were the intrinsic outcomes of the learning process itself and not a reflection of a preexisting functionality recruited during classification, independent of acquisition. Support for the implicit nature of the knowledge utilized during preference classification on day 5 come from the fact that the basal ganglia, associated with implicit procedural learning, were activated during classification, while the medial temporal lobe system, associated with explicit declarative memory, was consistently deactivated. Thus, preference classification in combination with structural mere-exposure can be used to investigate structural sequence processing (syntax) in unsupervised AGL paradigms with proper learning designs.
  • Ganushchak, L. Y., & Acheson, D. J. (Eds.). (2014). What's to be learned from speaking aloud? - Advances in the neurophysiological measurement of overt language production. [Research topic] [Special Issue]. Frontiers in Language Sciences. Retrieved from http://www.frontiersin.org/Language_Sciences/researchtopics/What_s_to_be_Learned_from_Spea/1671.

    Abstract

    Researchers have long avoided neurophysiological experiments of overt speech production due to the suspicion that artifacts caused by muscle activity may lead to a bad signal-to-noise ratio in the measurements. However, the need to actually produce speech may influence earlier processing and qualitatively change speech production processes and what we can infer from neurophysiological measures thereof. Recently, however, overt speech has been successfully investigated using EEG, MEG, and fMRI. The aim of this Research Topic is to draw together recent research on the neurophysiological basis of language production, with the aim of developing and extending theoretical accounts of the language production process. In this Research Topic of Frontiers in Language Sciences, we invite both experimental and review papers, as well as those about the latest methods in acquisition and analysis of overt language production data. All aspects of language production are welcome: i.e., from conceptualization to articulation during native as well as multilingual language production. Focus should be placed on using the neurophysiological data to inform questions about the processing stages of language production. In addition, emphasis should be placed on the extent to which the identified components of the electrophysiological signal (e.g., ERP/ERF, neuronal oscillations, etc.), brain areas or networks are related to language comprehension and other cognitive domains. By bringing together electrophysiological and neuroimaging evidence on language production mechanisms, a more complete picture of the locus of language production processes and their temporal and neurophysiological signatures will emerge.
  • De Grauwe, S., Willems, R. M., Rüschemeyer, S.-A., Lemhöfer, K., & Schriefers, H. (2014). Embodied language in first- and second-language speakers: Neural correlates of processing motor verbs. Neuropsychologia, 56, 334-349. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2014.02.003.

    Abstract

    The involvement of neural motor and sensory systems in the processing of language has so far mainly been studied in native (L1) speakers. In an fMRI experiment, we investigated whether non-native (L2) semantic representations are rich enough to allow for activation in motor and somatosensory brain areas. German learners of Dutch and a control group of Dutch native speakers made lexical decisions about visually presented Dutch motor and non-motor verbs. Region-of-interest (ROI) and whole-brain analyses indicated that L2 speakers, like L1 speakers, showed significantly increased activation for simple motor compared to non-motor verbs in motor and somatosensory regions. This effect was not restricted to Dutch-German cognate verbs, but was also present for non-cognate verbs. These results indicate that L2 semantic representations are rich enough for motor-related activations to develop in motor and somatosensory areas.
  • De Grauwe, S., Lemhöfer, K., Willems, R. M., & Schriefers, H. (2014). L2 speakers decompose morphologically complex verbs: fMRI evidence from priming of transparent derived verbs. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8: 802. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2014.00802.

    Abstract

    In this functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) long-lag priming study, we investigated the processing of Dutch semantically transparent, derived prefix verbs. In such words, the meaning of the word as a whole can be deduced from the meanings of its parts, e.g., wegleggen “put aside.” Many behavioral and some fMRI studies suggest that native (L1) speakers decompose transparent derived words. The brain region usually implicated in morphological decomposition is the left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG). In non-native (L2) speakers, the processing of transparent derived words has hardly been investigated, especially in fMRI studies, and results are contradictory: some studies find more reliance on holistic (i.e., non-decompositional) processing by L2 speakers; some find no difference between L1 and L2 speakers. In this study, we wanted to find out whether Dutch transparent derived prefix verbs are decomposed or processed holistically by German L2 speakers of Dutch. Half of the derived verbs (e.g., omvallen “fall down”) were preceded by their stem (e.g., vallen “fall”) with a lag of 4–6 words (“primed”); the other half (e.g., inslapen “fall asleep”) were not (“unprimed”). L1 and L2 speakers of Dutch made lexical decisions on these visually presented verbs. Both region of interest analyses and whole-brain analyses showed that there was a significant repetition suppression effect for primed compared to unprimed derived verbs in the LIFG. This was true both for the analyses over L2 speakers only and for the analyses over the two language groups together. The latter did not reveal any interaction with language group (L1 vs. L2) in the LIFG. Thus, L2 speakers show a clear priming effect in the LIFG, an area that has been associated with morphological decomposition. Our findings are consistent with the idea that L2 speakers engage in decomposition of transparent derived verbs rather than processing them holistically

    Additional information

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  • Guadalupe, T., Willems, R. M., Zwiers, M., Arias Vasquez, A., Hoogman, M., Hagoort, P., Fernández, G., Buitelaar, J., Franke, B., Fisher, S. E., & Francks, C. (2014). Differences in cerebral cortical anatomy of left- and right-handers. Frontiers in Psychology, 5: 261. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00261.

    Abstract

    The left and right sides of the human brain are specialized for different kinds of information processing, and much of our cognition is lateralized to an extent towards one side or the other. Handedness is a reflection of nervous system lateralization. Roughly ten percent of people are mixed- or left-handed, and they show an elevated rate of reductions or reversals of some cerebral functional asymmetries compared to right-handers. Brain anatomical correlates of left-handedness have also been suggested. However, the relationships of left-handedness to brain structure and function remain far from clear. We carried out a comprehensive analysis of cortical surface area differences between 106 left-handed subjects and 1960 right-handed subjects, measured using an automated method of regional parcellation (FreeSurfer, Destrieux atlas). This is the largest study sample that has so far been used in relation to this issue. No individual cortical region showed an association with left-handedness that survived statistical correction for multiple testing, although there was a nominally significant association with the surface area of a previously implicated region: the left precentral sulcus. Identifying brain structural correlates of handedness may prove useful for genetic studies of cerebral asymmetries, as well as providing new avenues for the study of relations between handedness, cerebral lateralization and cognition.
  • Guadalupe, T., Zwiers, M. P., Teumer, A., Wittfeld, K., Arias Vasquez, A., Hoogman, M., Hagoort, P., Fernández, G., Buitelaar, J., Hegenscheid, K., Völzke, H., Franke, B., Fisher, S. E., Grabe, H. J., & Francks, C. (2014). Measurement and genetics of human subcortical and hippocampal asymmetries in large datasets. Human Brain Mapping, 35(7), 3277-3289. doi:10.1002/hbm.22401.

    Abstract

    Functional and anatomical asymmetries are prevalent features of the human brain, linked to gender, handedness, and cognition. However, little is known about the neurodevelopmental processes involved. In zebrafish, asymmetries arise in the diencephalon before extending within the central nervous system. We aimed to identify genes involved in the development of subtle, left-right volumetric asymmetries of human subcortical structures using large datasets. We first tested the feasibility of measuring left-right volume differences in such large-scale samples, as assessed by two automated methods of subcortical segmentation (FSL|FIRST and FreeSurfer), using data from 235 subjects who had undergone MRI twice. We tested the agreement between the first and second scan, and the agreement between the segmentation methods, for measures of bilateral volumes of six subcortical structures and the hippocampus, and their volumetric asymmetries. We also tested whether there were biases introduced by left-right differences in the regional atlases used by the methods, by analyzing left-right flipped images. While many bilateral volumes were measured well (scan-rescan r = 0.6-0.8), most asymmetries, with the exception of the caudate nucleus, showed lower repeatabilites. We meta-analyzed genome-wide association scan results for caudate nucleus asymmetry in a combined sample of 3,028 adult subjects but did not detect associations at genome-wide significance (P < 5 × 10-8). There was no enrichment of genetic association in genes involved in left-right patterning of the viscera. Our results provide important information for researchers who are currently aiming to carry out large-scale genome-wide studies of subcortical and hippocampal volumes, and their asymmetries
  • Hagoort, P. (2014). Introduction to section on language and abstract thought. In M. S. Gazzaniga, & G. R. Mangun (Eds.), The cognitive neurosciences (5th ed., pp. 615-618). Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
  • Hagoort, P. (2014). Nodes and networks in the neural architecture for language: Broca's region and beyond. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 28, 136-141. doi:10.1016/j.conb.2014.07.013.

    Abstract

    Current views on the neurobiological underpinnings of language are discussed that deviate in a number of ways from the classical Wernicke–Lichtheim–Geschwind model. More areas than Broca's and Wernicke's region are involved in language. Moreover, a division along the axis of language production and language comprehension does not seem to be warranted. Instead, for central aspects of language processing neural infrastructure is shared between production and comprehension. Three different accounts of the role of Broca's area in language are discussed. Arguments are presented in favor of a dynamic network view, in which the functionality of a region is co-determined by the network of regions in which it is embedded at particular moments in time. Finally, core regions of language processing need to interact with other networks (e.g. the attentional networks and the ToM network) to establish full functionality of language and communication.
  • Hagoort, P., & Levinson, S. C. (2014). Neuropragmatics. In M. S. Gazzaniga, & G. R. Mangun (Eds.), The cognitive neurosciences (5th ed., pp. 667-674). Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
  • Hagoort, P., & Indefrey, P. (2014). The neurobiology of language beyond single words. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 37, 347-362. doi:10.1146/annurev-neuro-071013-013847.

    Abstract

    A hallmark of human language is that we combine lexical building blocks retrieved from memory in endless new ways. This combinatorial aspect of language is referred to as unification. Here we focus on the neurobiological infrastructure for syntactic and semantic unification. Unification is characterized by a high-speed temporal profile including both prediction and integration of retrieved lexical elements. A meta-analysis of numerous neuroimaging studies reveals a clear dorsal/ventral gradient in both left inferior frontal cortex and left posterior temporal cortex, with dorsal foci for syntactic processing and ventral foci for semantic processing. In addition to core areas for unification, further networks need to be recruited to realize language-driven communication to its full extent. One example is the theory of mind network, which allows listeners and readers to infer the intended message (speaker meaning) from the coded meaning of the linguistic utterance. This indicates that sensorimotor simulation cannot handle all of language processing.
  • Heyselaar, E., Hagoort, P., & Segaert, K. (2014). In dialogue with an avatar, syntax production is identical compared to dialogue with a human partner. In P. Bello, M. Guarini, M. McShane, & B. Scassellati (Eds.), Proceedings of the 36th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2014) (pp. 2351-2356). Austin, Tx: Cognitive Science Society.

    Abstract

    The use of virtual reality (VR) as a methodological tool is becoming increasingly popular in behavioural research due to its seemingly limitless possibilities. This new method has not been used frequently in the field of psycholinguistics, however, possibly due to the assumption that humancomputer interaction does not accurately reflect human-human interaction. In the current study we compare participants’ language behaviour in a syntactic priming task with human versus avatar partners. Our study shows comparable priming effects between human and avatar partners (Human: 12.3%; Avatar: 12.6% for passive sentences) suggesting that VR is a valid platform for conducting language research and studying dialogue interactions.
  • Holler, J., Schubotz, L., Kelly, S., Hagoort, P., Schuetze, M., & Ozyurek, A. (2014). Social eye gaze modulates processing of speech and co-speech gesture. Cognition, 133, 692-697. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2014.08.008.

    Abstract

    In human face-to-face communication, language comprehension is a multi-modal, situated activity. However, little is known about how we combine information from different modalities during comprehension, and how perceived communicative intentions, often signaled through visual signals, influence this process. We explored this question by simulating a multi-party communication context in which a speaker alternated her gaze between two recipients. Participants viewed speech-only or speech + gesture object-related messages when being addressed (direct gaze) or unaddressed (gaze averted to other participant). They were then asked to choose which of two object images matched the speaker’s preceding message. Unaddressed recipients responded significantly more slowly than addressees for speech-only utterances. However, perceiving the same speech accompanied by gestures sped unaddressed recipients up to a level identical to that of addressees. That is, when unaddressed recipients’ speech processing suffers, gestures can enhance the comprehension of a speaker’s message. We discuss our findings with respect to two hypotheses attempting to account for how social eye gaze may modulate multi-modal language comprehension.
  • Junge, C., Cutler, A., & Hagoort, P. (2014). Successful word recognition by 10-month-olds given continuous speech both at initial exposure and test. Infancy, 19(2), 179-193. doi:10.1111/infa.12040.

    Abstract

    Most words that infants hear occur within fluent speech. To compile a vocabulary, infants therefore need to segment words from speech contexts. This study is the first to investigate whether infants (here: 10-month-olds) can recognize words when both initial exposure and test presentation are in continuous speech. Electrophysiological evidence attests that this indeed occurs: An increased extended negativity (word recognition effect) appears for familiarized target words relative to control words. This response proved constant at the individual level: Only infants who showed this negativity at test had shown such a response, within six repetitions after first occurrence, during familiarization.
  • Keller, K. L., Fritz, R. S., Zoubek, C. M., Kennedy, E. H., Cronin, K. A., Rothwell, E. S., & Serfass, T. L. (2014). Effects of transport on fecal glucocorticoid levels in captive-bred cotton-top tamarins (Saguinus oedipus). Journal of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science, 88(2), 84-88.

    Abstract

    The relocation of animals can induce stress when animals are placed in novel environmental conditions. The movement of captive animals among facilities is common, especially for non-human primates used in research. The stress response begins with the activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis which results in the release of glucocorticoid hormones (GC), which at chronic levels could lead to deleterious physiological effects. There is a substantial body of data concerning GC levels affecting reproduction, and rank and aggression in primates. However, the effect of transport has received much less attention. Fecal samples from eight (four male and four female) captive-bred cotton-top tamarins (Saguinus oedipus) were collected at four different time points (two pre-transport and two post-transport). The fecal samples were analyzed using an immunoassay to determine GC levels. A repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) demonstrated that GC levels differed among transport times (p = 0.009), but not between sexes (p = 0.963). Five of the eight tamarins exhibited an increase in GC levels after transport. Seven of the eight tamarins exhibited a decrease in GC levels from three to six days post-transport to three weeks post-transport. Most values returned to pre-transport levels after three weeks. The results indicate that these tamarins experienced elevated GC levels following transport, but these increases were of short duration. This outcome would suggest that the negative effects of elevated GC levels were also of short duration.
  • Kok, P. (2014). On the role of expectation in visual perception: A top-down view of early visual cortex. PhD Thesis, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen.
  • Kunert, R., & Scheepers, C. (2014). Speed and accuracy of dyslexic versus typical word recognition: An eye-movement investigation. Frontiers in Psychology, 5: 1129. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01129.

    Abstract

    Developmental dyslexia is often characterized by a dual deficit in both word recognition accuracy and general processing speed. While previous research into dyslexic word recognition may have suffered from speed-accuracy trade-off, the present study employed a novel eye-tracking task that is less prone to such confounds. Participants (10 dyslexics and 12 controls) were asked to look at real word stimuli, and to ignore simultaneously presented non-word stimuli, while their eye-movements were recorded. Improvements in word recognition accuracy over time were modeled in terms of a continuous non-linear function. The words' rhyme consistency and the non-words' lexicality (unpronounceable, pronounceable, pseudohomophone) were manipulated within-subjects. Speed-related measures derived from the model fits confirmed generally slower processing in dyslexics, and showed a rhyme consistency effect in both dyslexics and controls. In terms of overall error rate, dyslexics (but not controls) performed less accurately on rhyme-inconsistent words, suggesting a representational deficit for such words in dyslexics. Interestingly, neither group showed a pseudohomophone effect in speed or accuracy, which might call the task-independent pervasiveness of this effect into question. The present results illustrate the importance of distinguishing between speed- vs. accuracy-related effects for our understanding of dyslexic word recognition

    Additional information

    Kunert_Data Sheet 1.DOCX
  • Lai, V. T., Garrido Rodriguez, G., & Narasimhan, B. (2014). Thinking-for-speaking in early and late bilinguals. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 17, 139-152. doi:10.1017/S1366728913000151.

    Abstract

    When speakers describe motion events using different languages, they subsequently classify those events in language-specific ways (Gennari, Sloman, Malt & Fitch, 2002). Here we ask if bilingual speakers flexibly shift their event classification preferences based on the language in which they verbally encode those events. English–Spanish bilinguals and monolingual controls described motion events in either Spanish or English. Subsequently they judged the similarity of the motion events in a triad task. Bilinguals tested in Spanish and Spanish monolinguals were more likely to make similarity judgments based on the path of motion versus bilinguals tested in English and English monolinguals. The effect is modulated in bilinguals by the age of acquisition of the second language. Late bilinguals based their judgments on path more often when Spanish was used to describe the motion events versus English. Early bilinguals had a path preference independent of the language in use. These findings support “thinking-for-speaking” (Slobin, 1996) in late bilinguals.
  • Levy, J., Hagoort, P., & Démonet, J.-F. (2014). A neuronal gamma oscillatory signature during morphological unification in the left occipitotemporal junction. Human Brain Mapping, 35, 5847-5860. doi:10.1002/hbm.22589.

    Abstract

    Morphology is the aspect of language concerned with the internal structure of words. In the past decades, a large body of masked priming (behavioral and neuroimaging) data has suggested that the visual word recognition system automatically decomposes any morphologically complex word into a stem and its constituent morphemes. Yet the reliance of morphology on other reading processes (e.g., orthography and semantics), as well as its underlying neuronal mechanisms are yet to be determined. In the current magnetoencephalography study, we addressed morphology from the perspective of the unification framework, that is, by applying the Hold/Release paradigm, morphological unification was simulated via the assembly of internal morphemic units into a whole word. Trials representing real words were divided into words with a transparent (true) or a nontransparent (pseudo) morphological relationship. Morphological unification of truly suffixed words was faster and more accurate and additionally enhanced induced oscillations in the narrow gamma band (60–85 Hz, 260–440 ms) in the left posterior occipitotemporal junction. This neural signature could not be explained by a mere automatic lexical processing (i.e., stem perception), but more likely it related to a semantic access step during the morphological unification process. By demonstrating the validity of unification at the morphological level, this study contributes to the vast empirical evidence on unification across other language processes. Furthermore, we point out that morphological unification relies on the retrieval of lexical semantic associations via induced gamma band oscillations in a cerebral hub region for visual word form processing.
  • Lüttjohann, A., Schoffelen, J.-M., & Van Luijtelaar, G. (2014). Termination of ongoing spike-wave discharges investigated by cortico-thalamic network analyses. Neurobiology of Disease, 70, 127-137. doi:10.1016/j.nbd.2014.06.007.

    Abstract

    Purpose While decades of research were devoted to study generation mechanisms of spontaneous spike and wave discharges (SWD), little attention has been paid to network mechanisms associated with the spontaneous termination of SWD. In the current study coupling-dynamics at the onset and termination of SWD were studied in an extended part of the cortico-thalamo-cortical system of freely moving, genetic absence epileptic WAG/Rij rats. Methods Local-field potential recordings of 16 male WAG/Rij rats, equipped with multiple electrodes targeting layer 4 to 6 of the somatosensory-cortex (ctx4, ctx5, ctx6), rostral and caudal reticular thalamic nucleus (rRTN & cRTN), Ventral Postero Medial (VPM), anterior- (ATN) and posterior (Po) thalamic nucleus, were obtained. Six seconds lasting pre-SWD->SWD, SWD->post SWD and control periods were analyzed with time-frequency methods and between-region interactions were quantified with frequencyresolved Granger Causality (GC) analysis. Results Most channel-pairs showed increases in GC lasting from onset to offset of the SWD. While for most thalamo-thalamic pairs a dominant coupling direction was found during the complete SWD, most cortico-thalamic pairs only showed a dominant directional drive (always from cortex to thalamus) during the first 500ms of SWD. Channel-pair ctx4-rRTN showed a longer lasting dominant cortical drive, which stopped 1.5 sec prior to SWD offset. This early decrease in directional coupling was followed by an increase in directional coupling from cRTN to rRTN 1 sec prior to SWD offset. For channel pairs ctx5-Po and ctx6-Po the heightened cortex->thalamus coupling remained until 1.5 sec following SWD offset, while the thalamus->cortex coupling for these pairs stopped at SWD offset. Conclusion The high directional coupling from somatosensory cortex to the thalamus at SWD onset is in good agreement with the idea of a cortical epileptic focus that initiates and entrains other brain structures into seizure activity. The decrease of cortex to rRTN coupling as well as the increased coupling from cRTN to rRTN preceding SWD termination demonstrate that SWD termination is a gradual process that involves both cortico-thalamic as well as intrathalamic processes. The rostral RTN seems to be an important resonator for SWD and relevant for maintenance, while the cRTN might inhibit this oscillation. The somatosensory cortex seems to attempt to reinitiate SWD following its offset via its strong coupling to the posterior thalamus.
  • Magyari, L., Bastiaansen, M. C. M., De Ruiter, J. P., & Levinson, S. C. (2014). Early anticipation lies behind the speed of response in conversation. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 26(11), 2530-2539. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_00673.

    Abstract

    RTs in conversation, with average gaps of 200 msec and often less, beat standard RTs, despite the complexity of response and the lag in speech production (600 msec or more). This can only be achieved by anticipation of timing and content of turns in conversation, about which little is known. Using EEG and an experimental task with conversational stimuli, we show that estimation of turn durations are based on anticipating the way the turn would be completed. We found a neuronal correlate of turn-end anticipation localized in ACC and inferior parietal lobule, namely a beta-frequency desynchronization as early as 1250 msec, before the end of the turn. We suggest that anticipation of the other's utterance leads to accurately timed transitions in everyday conversations.
  • Pacheco, A., Araújo, S., Faísca, L., de Castro, S. L., Petersson, K. M., & Reis, A. (2014). Dyslexia's heterogeneity: Cognitive profiling of Portuguese children with dyslexia. Reading and Writing, 27(9), 1529-1545. doi:10.1007/s11145-014-9504-5.

    Abstract

    Recent studies have emphasized that developmental dyslexia is a multiple-deficit disorder, in contrast to the traditional single-deficit view. In this context, cognitive profiling of children with dyslexia may be a relevant contribution to this unresolved discussion. The aim of this study was to profile 36 Portuguese children with dyslexia from the 2nd to 5th grade. Hierarchical cluster analysis was used to group participants according to their phonological awareness, rapid automatized naming, verbal short-term memory, vocabulary, and nonverbal intelligence abilities. The results suggested a two-cluster solution: a group with poorer performance on phoneme deletion and rapid automatized naming compared with the remaining variables (Cluster 1) and a group characterized by underperforming on the variables most related to phonological processing (phoneme deletion and digit span), but not on rapid automatized naming (Cluster 2). Overall, the results seem more consistent with a hybrid perspective, such as that proposed by Pennington and colleagues (2012), for understanding the heterogeneity of dyslexia. The importance of characterizing the profiles of individuals with dyslexia becomes clear within the context of constructing remediation programs that are specifically targeted and are more effective in terms of intervention outcome.

    Additional information

    11145_2014_9504_MOESM1_ESM.doc
  • Peeters, D., Runnqvist, E., Bertrand, D., & Grainger, J. (2014). Asymmetrical switch costs in bilingual language production induced by reading words. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 40(1), 284-292. doi:10.1037/a0034060.

    Abstract

    We examined language-switching effects in French–English bilinguals using a paradigm where pictures are always named in the same language (either French or English) within a block of trials, and on each trial, the picture is preceded by a printed word from the same language or from the other language. Participants had to either make a language decision on the word or categorize it as an animal name or not. Picture-naming latencies in French (Language 1 [L1]) were slower when pictures were preceded by an English word than by a French word, independently of the task performed on the word. There were no language-switching effects when pictures were named in English (L2). This pattern replicates asymmetrical switch costs found with the cued picture-naming paradigm and shows that the asymmetrical pattern can be obtained (a) in the absence of artificial (nonlinguistic) language cues, (b) when the switch involves a shift from comprehension in 1 language to production in another, and (c) when the naming language is blocked (univalent response). We concluded that language switch costs in bilinguals cannot be reduced to effects driven by task control or response-selection mechanisms.
  • Peeters, D., Azar, Z., & Ozyurek, A. (2014). The interplay between joint attention, physical proximity, and pointing gesture in demonstrative choice. In P. Bello, M. Guarini, M. McShane, & B. Scassellati (Eds.), Proceedings of the 36th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2014) (pp. 1144-1149). Austin, Tx: Cognitive Science Society.
  • Peeters, D., & Dresler, M. (2014). The scientific significance of sleep-talking. Frontiers for Young Minds, 2(9). Retrieved from http://kids.frontiersin.org/articles/24/the_scientific_significance_of_sleep_talking/.

    Abstract

    Did one of your parents, siblings, or friends ever tell you that you were talking in your sleep? Nothing to be ashamed of! A recent study found that more than half of all people have had the experience of speaking out loud while being asleep [1]. This might even be underestimated, because often people do not notice that they are sleep-talking, unless somebody wakes them up or tells them the next day. Most neuroscientists, linguists, and psychologists studying language are interested in our language production and language comprehension skills during the day. In the present article, we will explore what is known about the production of overt speech during the night. We suggest that the study of sleep-talking may be just as interesting and informative as the study of wakeful speech.
  • Piai, V., Roelofs, A., Jensen, O., Schoffelen, J.-M., & Bonnefond, M. (2014). Distinct patterns of brain activity characterise lexical activation and competition in spoken word production. PLoS One, 9(2): e88674. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0088674.

    Abstract

    According to a prominent theory of language production, concepts activate multiple associated words in memory, which enter into competition for selection. However, only a few electrophysiological studies have identified brain responses reflecting competition. Here, we report a magnetoencephalography study in which the activation of competing words was manipulated by presenting pictures (e.g., dog) with distractor words. The distractor and picture name were semantically related (cat), unrelated (pin), or identical (dog). Related distractors are stronger competitors to the picture name because they receive additional activation from the picture relative to other distractors. Picture naming times were longer with related than unrelated and identical distractors. Phase-locked and non-phase-locked activity were distinct but temporally related. Phase-locked activity in left temporal cortex, peaking at 400 ms, was larger on unrelated than related and identical trials, suggesting differential activation of alternative words by the picture-word stimuli. Non-phase-locked activity between roughly 350–650 ms (4–10 Hz) in left superior frontal gyrus was larger on related than unrelated and identical trials, suggesting differential resolution of the competition among the alternatives, as reflected in the naming times. These findings characterise distinct patterns of activity associated with lexical activation and competition, supporting the theory that words are selected by competition.
  • Schoffelen, J.-M., & Gross, J. (2014). Studying dynamic neural interactions with MEG. In S. Supek, & C. J. Aine (Eds.), Magnetoencephalography: From signals to dynamic cortical networks (pp. 405-427). Berlin: Springer.
  • Schoot, L., Menenti, L., Hagoort, P., & Segaert, K. (2014). A little more conversation - The influence of communicative context on syntactic priming in brain and behavior. Frontiers in Psychology, 5: 208. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00208.

    Abstract

    We report on an fMRI syntactic priming experiment in which we measure brain activity for participants who communicate with another participant outside the scanner. We investigated whether syntactic processing during overt language production and comprehension is influenced by having a (shared) goal to communicate. Although theory suggests this is true, the nature of this influence remains unclear. Two hypotheses are tested: i. syntactic priming effects (fMRI and RT) are stronger for participants in the communicative context than for participants doing the same experiment in a non-communicative context, and ii. syntactic priming magnitude (RT) is correlated with the syntactic priming magnitude of the speaker’s communicative partner. Results showed that across conditions, participants were faster to produce sentences with repeated syntax, relative to novel syntax. This behavioral result converged with the fMRI data: we found repetition suppression effects in the left insula extending into left inferior frontal gyrus (BA 47/45), left middle temporal gyrus (BA 21), left inferior parietal cortex (BA 40), left precentral gyrus (BA 6), bilateral precuneus (BA 7), bilateral supplementary motor cortex (BA 32/8) and right insula (BA 47). We did not find support for the first hypothesis: having a communicative intention does not increase the magnitude of syntactic priming effects (either in the brain or in behavior) per se. We did find support for the second hypothesis: if speaker A is strongly/weakly primed by speaker B, then speaker B is primed by speaker A to a similar extent. We conclude that syntactic processing is influenced by being in a communicative context, and that the nature of this influence is bi-directional: speakers are influenced by each other.
  • Segaert, K., Weber, K., Cladder-Micus, M., & Hagoort, P. (2014). The influence of verb-bound syntactic preferences on the processing of syntactic structures. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 40(5), 1448-1460. doi:10.1037/a0036796.

    Abstract

    Speakers sometimes repeat syntactic structures across sentences, a phenomenon called syntactic priming. We investigated the influence of verb-bound syntactic preferences on syntactic priming effects in response choices and response latencies for German ditransitive sentences. In the response choices we found inverse preference effects: There were stronger syntactic priming effects for primes in the less preferred structure, given the syntactic preference of the prime verb. In the response latencies we found positive preference effects: There were stronger syntactic priming effects for primes in the more preferred structure, given the syntactic preference of the prime verb. These findings provide further support for the idea that syntactic processing is lexically guided.
  • Shao, Z., Roelofs, A., Acheson, D. J., & Meyer, A. S. (2014). Electrophysiological evidence that inhibition supports lexical selection in picture naming. Brain Research, 1586, 130-142. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2014.07.009.

    Abstract

    We investigated the neural basis of inhibitory control during lexical selection. Participants overtly named pictures while response times (RTs) and event-related brain potentials (ERPs) were recorded. The difficulty of lexical selection was manipulated by using object and action pictures with high name agreement (few response candidates) versus low name agreement (many response candidates). To assess the involvement of inhibition, we conducted delta plot analyses of naming RTs and examined the N2 component of the ERP. We found longer mean naming RTs and a larger N2 amplitude in the low relative to the high name agreement condition. For action naming we found a negative correlation between the slopes of the slowest delta segment and the difference in N2 amplitude between the low and high name agreement conditions. The converging behavioral and electrophysiological evidence suggests that selective inhibition is engaged to reduce competition during lexical selection in picture naming.
  • Silva, S., Branco, P., Barbosa, F., Marques-Teixeira, J., Petersson, K. M., & Castro, S. L. (2014). Musical phrase boundaries, wrap-up and the closure positive shift. Brain Research, 1585, 99-107. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2014.08.025.

    Abstract

    We investigated global integration (wrap-up) processes at the boundaries of musical phrases by comparing the effects of well and non-well formed phrases on event-related potentials time-locked to two boundary points: the onset and the offset of the boundary pause. The Closure Positive Shift, which is elicited at the boundary offset, was not modulated by the quality of phrase structure (well vs. non-well formed). In contrast, the boundary onset potentials showed different patterns for well and non-well formed phrases. Our results contribute to specify the functional meaning of the Closure Positive Shift in music, shed light on the large-scale structural integration of musical input, and raise new hypotheses concerning shared resources between music and language.
  • Silva, S., Barbosa, F., Marques-Teixeira, J., Petersson, K. M., & Castro, S. L. (2014). You know when: Event-related potentials and theta/beat power indicate boundary prediction in music. Journal of Integrative Neuroscience, 13(1), 19-34. doi:10.1142/S0219635214500022.

    Abstract

    Neuroscientific and musicological approaches to music cognition indicate that listeners familiarized in the Western tonal tradition expect a musical phrase boundary at predictable time intervals. However, phrase boundary prediction processes in music remain untested. We analyzed event-related potentials (ERPs) and event-related induced power changes at the onset and offset of a boundary pause. We made comparisons with modified melodies, where the pause was omitted and filled by tones. The offset of the pause elicited a closure positive shift (CPS), indexing phrase boundary detection. The onset of the filling tones elicited significant increases in theta and beta powers. In addition, the P2 component was larger when the filling tones started than when they ended. The responses to boundary omission suggest that listeners expected to hear a boundary pause. Therefore, boundary prediction seems to coexist with boundary detection in music segmentation.
  • Simanova, I. (2014). In search of conceptual representations in the brain: Towards mind-reading. PhD Thesis, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen.
  • Simanova, I., Hagoort, P., Oostenveld, R., & Van Gerven, M. A. J. (2014). Modality-independent decoding of semantic information from the human brain. Cerebral Cortex, 24, 426-434. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhs324.

    Abstract

    An ability to decode semantic information from fMRI spatial patterns has been demonstrated in previous studies mostly for 1 specific input modality. In this study, we aimed to decode semantic category independent of the modality in which an object was presented. Using a searchlight method, we were able to predict the stimulus category from the data while participants performed a semantic categorization task with 4 stimulus modalities (spoken and written names, photographs, and natural sounds). Significant classification performance was achieved in all 4 modalities. Modality-independent decoding was implemented by training and testing the searchlight method across modalities. This allowed the localization of those brain regions, which correctly discriminated between the categories, independent of stimulus modality. The analysis revealed large clusters of voxels in the left inferior temporal cortex and in frontal regions. These voxels also allowed category discrimination in a free recall session where subjects recalled the objects in the absence of external stimuli. The results show that semantic information can be decoded from the fMRI signal independently of the input modality and have clear implications for understanding the functional mechanisms of semantic memory.
  • Stolk, A., Noordzij, M. L., Verhagen, L., Volman, I., Schoffelen, J.-M., Oostenveld, R., Hagoort, P., & Toni, I. (2014). Cerebral coherence between communicators marks the emergence of meaning. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111, 18183-18188. doi:10.1073/pnas.1414886111.

    Abstract

    How can we understand each other during communicative interactions? An influential suggestion holds that communicators are primed by each other’s behaviors, with associative mechanisms automatically coordinating the production of communicative signals and the comprehension of their meanings. An alternative suggestion posits that mutual understanding requires shared conceptualizations of a signal’s use, i.e., “conceptual pacts” that are abstracted away from specific experiences. Both accounts predict coherent neural dynamics across communicators, aligned either to the occurrence of a signal or to the dynamics of conceptual pacts. Using coherence spectral-density analysis of cerebral activity simultaneously measured in pairs of communicators, this study shows that establishing mutual understanding of novel signals synchronizes cerebral dynamics across communicators’ right temporal lobes. This interpersonal cerebral coherence occurred only within pairs with a shared communicative history, and at temporal scales independent from signals’ occurrences. These findings favor the notion that meaning emerges from shared conceptualizations of a signal’s use.
  • Stolk, A., Noordzij, M. L., Volman, I., Verhagen, L., Overeem, S., van Elswijk, G., Bloem, B., Hagoort, P., & Toni, I. (2014). Understanding communicative actions: A repetitive TMS study. Cortex, 51, 25-34. doi:10.1016/j.cortex.2013.10.005.

    Abstract

    Despite the ambiguity inherent in human communication, people are remarkably efficient in establishing mutual understanding. Studying how people communicate in novel settings provides a window into the mechanisms supporting the human competence to rapidly generate and understand novel shared symbols, a fundamental property of human communication. Previous work indicates that the right posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS) is involved when people understand the intended meaning of novel communicative actions. Here, we set out to test whether normal functioning of this cerebral structure is required for understanding novel communicative actions using inhibitory low-frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). A factorial experimental design contrasted two tightly matched stimulation sites (right pSTS vs. left MT+, i.e. a contiguous homotopic task-relevant region) and tasks (a communicative task vs. a visual tracking task that used the same sequences of stimuli). Overall task performance was not affected by rTMS, whereas changes in task performance over time were disrupted according to TMS site and task combinations. Namely, rTMS over pSTS led to a diminished ability to improve action understanding on the basis of recent communicative history, while rTMS over MT+ perturbed improvement in visual tracking over trials. These findings qualify the contributions of the right pSTS to human communicative abilities, showing that this region might be necessary for incorporating previous knowledge, accumulated during interactions with a communicative partner, to constrain the inferential process that leads to action understanding.
  • Takashima, A., Wagensveld, B., Van Turennout, M., Zwitserlood, P., Hagoort, P., & Verhoeven, L. (2014). Training-induced neural plasticity in visual-word decoding and the role of syllables. Neuropsychologia, 61, 299-314. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2014.06.017.

    Abstract

    To investigate the neural underpinnings of word decoding, and how it changes as a function of repeated exposure, we trained Dutch participants repeatedly over the course of a month of training to articulate a set of novel disyllabic input strings written in Greek script to avoid the use of familiar orthographic representations. The syllables in the input were phonotactically legal combinations but non-existent in the Dutch language, allowing us to assess their role in novel word decoding. Not only trained disyllabic pseudowords were tested but also pseudowords with recombined patterns of syllables to uncover the emergence of syllabic representations. We showed that with extensive training, articulation became faster and more accurate for the trained pseudowords. On the neural level, the initial stage of decoding was reflected by increased activity in visual attention areas of occipito-temporal and occipito-parietal cortices, and in motor coordination areas of the precentral gyrus and the inferior frontal gyrus. After one month of training, memory representations for holistic information (whole word unit) were established in areas encompassing the angular gyrus, the precuneus and the middle temporal gyrus. Syllabic representations also emerged through repeated training of disyllabic pseudowords, such that reading recombined syllables of the trained pseudowords showed similar brain activation to trained pseudowords and were articulated faster than novel combinations of letter strings used in the trained pseudowords.
  • Tsuji, S., & Cristia, A. (2014). Perceptual attunement in vowels: A meta-analysis. Developmental Psychobiology, 56(2), 179-191. doi:10.1002/dev.21179.

    Abstract

    Although the majority of evidence on perceptual narrowing in speech sounds is based on consonants, most models of infant speech perception generalize these findings to vowels, assuming that vowel perception improves for vowel sounds that are present in the infant's native language within the first year of life, and deteriorates for non-native vowel sounds over the same period of time. The present meta-analysis contributes to assessing to what extent these descriptions are accurate in the first comprehensive quantitative meta-analysis of perceptual narrowing in infant vowel discrimination, including results from behavioral, electrophysiological, and neuroimaging methods applied to infants 0–14 months of age. An analysis of effect sizes for native and non-native vowel discrimination over the first year of life revealed that they changed with age in opposite directions, being significant by about 6 months of age
  • Van Leeuwen, T. M., Petersson, K. M., Langner, O., Rijpkema, M., & Hagoort, P. (2014). Color specificity in the human V4 complex: An fMRI repetition suppression study. In T. D. Papageorgiou, G. I. Cristopoulous, & S. M. Smirnakis (Eds.), Advanced Brain Neuroimaging Topics in Health and Disease - Methods and Applications (pp. 275-295). Rijeka, Croatia: Intech. doi:10.5772/58278.
  • Van Leeuwen, T. M., Lamers, M. J. A., Petersson, K. M., Gussenhoven, C., Poser, B., & Hagoort, P. (2014). Phonological markers of information structure: An fMRI study. Neuropsychologia, 58(1), 64-74. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2014.03.017.

    Abstract

    In this fMRI study we investigate the neural correlates of information structure integration during sentence comprehension in Dutch. We looked into how prosodic cues (pitch accents) that signal the information status of constituents to the listener (new information) are combined with other types of information during the unification process. The difficulty of unifying the prosodic cues into overall sentence meaning was manipulated by constructing sentences in which the pitch accent did (focus-accent agreement), and sentences in which the pitch accent did not (focus-accent disagreement) match the expectations for focus constituents of the sentence. In case of a mismatch, the load on unification processes increases. Our results show two anatomically distinct effects of focus-accent disagreement, one located in the posterior left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG, BA6/44), and one in the more anterior-ventral LIFG (BA 47/45). Our results confirm that information structure is taken into account during unification, and imply an important role for the LIFG in unification processes, in line with previous fMRI studies.

    Additional information

    mmc1.doc
  • Veenstra, A., Acheson, D. J., Bock, K., & Meyer, A. S. (2014). Effects of semantic integration on subject–verb agreement: Evidence from Dutch. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 29(3), 355-380. doi:10.1080/01690965.2013.862284.

    Abstract

    The generation of subject–verb agreement is a central component of grammatical encoding. It is sensitive to conceptual and grammatical influences, but the interplay between these factors is still not fully understood. We investigate how semantic integration of the subject noun phrase (‘the secretary of/with the governor’) and the Local Noun Number (‘the secretary with the governor/governors’) affect the ease of selecting the verb form. Two hypotheses are assessed: according to the notional hypothesis, integration encourages the assignment of the singular notional number to the noun phrase and facilitates the choice of the singular verb form. According to the lexical interference hypothesis, integration strengthens the competition between nouns within the subject phrase, making it harder to select the verb form when the nouns mismatch in number. In two experiments, adult speakers of Dutch completed spoken preambles (Experiment 1) or selected appropriate verb forms (Experiment 2). Results showed facilitatory effects of semantic integration (fewer errors and faster responses with increasing integration). These effects did not interact with the effects of the Local Noun Number (slower response times and higher error rates for mismatching than for matching noun numbers). The findings thus support the notional hypothesis and a model of agreement where conceptual and lexical factors independently contribute to the determination of the number of the subject noun phrase and, ultimately, the verb.
  • Veenstra, A., Acheson, D. J., & Meyer, A. S. (2014). Keeping it simple: Studying grammatical encoding with lexically-reduced item sets. Frontiers in Psychology, 5: 783. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00783.

    Abstract

    Compared to the large body of work on lexical access, little research has been done on grammatical encoding in language production. An exception is the generation of subject-verb agreement. Here, two key findings have been reported: (1) Speakers make more agreement errors when the head and local noun of a phrase mismatch in number than when they match (e.g., the key to the cabinet(s)); and (2) this attraction effect is asymmetric, with stronger attraction for singular than for plural head nouns. Although these findings are robust, the cognitive processes leading to agreement errors and their significance for the generation of correct agreement are not fully understood. We propose that future studies of agreement, and grammatical encoding in general, may benefit from using paradigms that tightly control the variability of the lexical content of the material. We report two experiments illustrating this approach. In both of them, the experimental items featured combinations of four nouns, four color adjectives, and two prepositions. In Experiment 1, native speakers of Dutch described pictures in sentences such as the circle next to the stars is blue. In Experiment 2, they carried out a forced-choice task, where they read subject noun phrases (e.g., the circle next to the stars) and selected the correct verb-phrase (is blue or are blue) with a button press. Both experiments showed an attraction effect, with more errors after subject phrases with mismatching, compared to matching head and local nouns. This effect was stronger for singular than plural heads, replicating the attraction asymmetry. In contrast, the response times recorded in Experiment 2 showed similar attraction effects for singular and plural head nouns. These results demonstrate that critical agreement phenomena can be elicited reliably in lexically-reduced contexts. We discuss the theoretical implications of the findings and the potential and limitations of studies using lexically simple materials.
  • Wegman, J., Fonteijn, H. M., van Ekert, J., Tyborowska, A., Jansen, C., & Janzen, G. (2014). Gray and white matter correlates of navigational ability in humans. Human Brain Mapping, 35(6), 2561-2572. doi:10.1002/hbm.22349.

    Abstract

    Humans differ widely in their navigational abilities. Studies have shown that self-reports on navigational abilities are good predictors of performance on navigation tasks in real and virtual environments. The caudate nucleus and medial temporal lobe regions have been suggested to subserve different navigational strategies. The ability to use different strategies might underlie navigational ability differences. This study examines the anatomical correlates of self-reported navigational ability in both gray and white matter. Local gray matter volume was compared between a group (N = 134) of good and bad navigators using voxel-based morphometry (VBM), as well as regional volumes. To compare between good and bad navigators, we also measured white matter anatomy using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and looked at fractional anisotropy (FA) values. We observed a trend toward higher local GM volume in right anterior parahippocampal/rhinal cortex for good versus bad navigators. Good male navigators showed significantly higher local GM volume in right hippocampus than bad male navigators. Conversely, bad navigators showed increased FA values in the internal capsule, the white matter bundle closest to the caudate nucleus and a trend toward higher local GM volume in the caudate nucleus. Furthermore, caudate nucleus regional volume correlated negatively with navigational ability. These convergent findings across imaging modalities are in line with findings showing that the caudate nucleus and the medial temporal lobes are involved in different wayfinding strategies. Our study is the first to show a link between self-reported large-scale navigational abilities and different measures of brain anatomy.
  • Whitmarsh, S., Barendregt, H., Schoffelen, J.-M., & Jensen, O. (2014). Metacognitive awareness of covert somatosensory attention corresponds to contralateral alpha power. NeuroImage, 85(2), 803-809. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.07.031.

    Abstract

    Studies on metacognition have shown that participants can report on their performance on a wide range of perceptual, memory and behavioral tasks. We know little, however, about the ability to report on one's attentional focus. The degree and direction of somatosensory attention can, however, be readily discerned through suppression of alpha band frequencies in EEG/MEG produced by the somatosensory cortex. Such top-down attentional modulations of cortical excitability have been shown to result in better discrimination performance and decreased response times. In this study we asked whether the degree of attentional focus is also accessible for subjective report, and whether such evaluations correspond to the amount of somatosensory alpha activity. In response to auditory cues participants maintained somatosensory attention to either their left or right hand for intervals varying randomly between 5 and 32seconds, while their brain activity was recorded with MEG. Trials were terminated by a probe sound, to which they reported their level of attention on the cued hand right before probe-onset. Using a beamformer approach, we quantified the alpha activity in left and right somatosensory regions, one second before the probe. Alpha activity from contra- and ipsilateral somatosensory cortices for high versus low attention trials were compared. As predicted, the contralateral somatosensory alpha depression correlated with higher reported attentional focus. Finally, alpha activity two to three seconds before the probe-onset was correlated with attentional focus. We conclude that somatosensory attention is indeed accessible to metacognitive awareness.
  • Willems, R. M., Van der Haegen, L., Fisher, S. E., & Francks, C. (2014). On the other hand: Including left-handers in cognitive neuroscience and neurogenetics. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 15, 193-201. doi:10.1038/nrn3679.

    Abstract

    Left-handers are often excluded from study cohorts in neuroscience and neurogenetics in order to reduce variance in the data. However, recent investigations have shown that the inclusion or targeted recruitment of left-handers can be informative in studies on a range of topics, such as cerebral lateralization and the genetic underpinning of asymmetrical brain development. Left-handed individuals represent a substantial portion of the human population and therefore left-handedness falls within the normal range of human diversity; thus, it is important to account for this variation in our understanding of brain functioning. We call for neuroscientists and neurogeneticists to recognize the potential of studying this often-discarded group of research subjects.
  • Willems, R. M., & Francks, C. (2014). Your left-handed brain. Frontiers for Young Minds, 2: 13. doi:10.3389/frym.2014.00013.

    Abstract

    While most people prefer to use their right hand to brush their teeth, throw a ball, or hold a tennis racket, left-handers prefer to use their left hand. This is the case for around 10 per cent of all people. There was a time (not so long ago) when left-handers were stigmatized in Western (and other) communities: it was considered a bad sign if you were left-handed, and left-handed children were often forced to write with their right hand. This is nonsensical: there is nothing wrong with being left-handed, and trying to write with the non-preferred hand is frustrating for almost everybody. As a matter of fact, science can learn from left-handers, and in this paper, we discuss how this may be the case. We review why some people are left-handed and others are not, how left-handers' brains differ from right-handers’, and why scientists study left-handedness in the first place
  • De Zubicaray, G. I., Hartsuiker, R. J., & Acheson, D. J. (2014). Mind what you say—general and specific mechanisms for monitoring in speech production. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8: 514. doi:10.3389%2Ffnhum.2014.00514.

    Abstract

    For most people, speech production is relatively effortless and error-free. Yet it has long been recognized that we need some type of control over what we are currently saying and what we plan to say. Precisely how we monitor our internal and external speech has been a topic of research interest for several decades. The predominant approach in psycholinguistics has assumed monitoring of both is accomplished via systems responsible for comprehending others' speech. This special topic aimed to broaden the field, firstly by examining proposals that speech production might also engage more general systems, such as those involved in action monitoring. A second aim was to examine proposals for a production-specific, internal monitor. Both aims require that we also specify the nature of the representations subject to monitoring.
  • Zumer, J. M., Scheeringa, R., Schoffelen, J.-M., Norris, D. G., & Jensen, O. (2014). Occipital alpha activity during stimulus processing gates the information flow to object-selective cortex. PLoS Biology, 12(10): e1001965. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001965.

    Abstract

    Given the limited processing capabilities of the sensory system, it is essential that attended information is gated to downstream areas, whereas unattended information is blocked. While it has been proposed that alpha band (8–13 Hz) activity serves to route information to downstream regions by inhibiting neuronal processing in task-irrelevant regions, this hypothesis remains untested. Here we investigate how neuronal oscillations detected by electroencephalography in visual areas during working memory encoding serve to gate information reflected in the simultaneously recorded blood-oxygenation-level-dependent (BOLD) signals recorded by functional magnetic resonance imaging in downstream ventral regions. We used a paradigm in which 16 participants were presented with faces and landscapes in the right and left hemifields; one hemifield was attended and the other unattended. We observed that decreased alpha power contralateral to the attended object predicted the BOLD signal representing the attended object in ventral object-selective regions. Furthermore, increased alpha power ipsilateral to the attended object predicted a decrease in the BOLD signal representing the unattended object. We also found that the BOLD signal in the dorsal attention network inversely correlated with visual alpha power. This is the first demonstration, to our knowledge, that oscillations in the alpha band are implicated in the gating of information from the visual cortex to the ventral stream, as reflected in the representationally specific BOLD signal. This link of sensory alpha to downstream activity provides a neurophysiological substrate for the mechanism of selective attention during stimulus processing, which not only boosts the attended information but also suppresses distraction. Although previous studies have shown a relation between the BOLD signal from the dorsal attention network and the alpha band at rest, we demonstrate such a relation during a visuospatial task, indicating that the dorsal attention network exercises top-down control of visual alpha activity.
  • 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. (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.
  • 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., & 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.
  • 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.

    Additional information

    GoldinMeadow_2008_naturalSuppl.pdf
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Hagoort, P. (2008). Mijn omweg naar de filosofie. Algemeen Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Wijsbegeerte, 100(4), 303-310.
  • 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.
  • 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). 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
  • 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., 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.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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.

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