Publications

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  • Bastiaanse, R., De Goede, D., & Love, T. (2009). Auditory sentence processing: An introduction. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 38(3), 177-179. doi:10.1007/s10936-009-9109-3.
  • Casasanto, D. (2009). [Review of the book Music, language, and the brain by Aniruddh D. Patel]. Language and Cognition, 1(1), 143-146. doi:10.1515/LANGCOG.2009.007.

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  • Casasanto, D. (2009). Embodiment of abstract concepts: Good and bad in right- and left-handers. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 138, 351-367. doi:10.1037/a0015854.

    Abstract

    Do people with different kinds of bodies think differently? According to the body-specificity hypothesis, people who interact with their physical environments in systematically different ways should form correspondingly different mental representations. In a test of this hypothesis, 5 experiments investigated links between handedness and the mental representation of abstract concepts with positive or negative valence (e.g., honesty, sadness, intelligence). Mappings from spatial location to emotional valence differed between right- and left-handed participants. Right-handers tended to associate rightward space with positive ideas and leftward space with negative ideas, but left-handers showed the opposite pattern, associating rightward space with negative ideas and leftward with positive ideas. These contrasting mental metaphors for valence cannot be attributed to linguistic experience, because idioms in English associate good with right but not with left. Rather, right- and left-handers implicitly associated positive valence more strongly with the side of space on which they could act more fluently with their dominant hands. These results support the body-specificity hypothesis and provide evidence for the perceptuomotor basis of even the most abstract ideas.
  • Davids, N., Van den Brink, D., Van Turennout, M., Mitterer, H., & Verhoeven, L. (2009). Towards neurophysiological assessment of phonemic discrimination: Context effects of the mismatch negativity. Clinical Neurophysiology, 120, 1078-1086. doi:10.1016/j.clinph.2009.01.018.

    Abstract

    This study focusses on the optimal paradigm for simultaneous assessment of auditory and phonemic discrimination in clinical populations. We investigated (a) whether pitch and phonemic deviants presented together in one sequence are able to elicit mismatch negativities (MMNs) in healthy adults and (b) whether MMN elicited by a change in pitch is modulated by the presence of the phonemic deviants.
  • Dediu, D. (2009). Genetic biasing through cultural transmission: Do simple Bayesian models of language evolution generalize? Journal of Theoretical Biology, 259, 552-561. doi:10.1016/j.jtbi.2009.04.004.

    Abstract

    The recent Bayesian approaches to language evolution and change seem to suggest that genetic biases can impact on the characteristics of language, but, at the same time, that its cultural transmission can partially free it from these same genetic constraints. One of the current debates centres on the striking differences between sampling and a posteriori maximising Bayesian learners, with the first converging on the prior bias while the latter allows a certain freedom to language evolution. The present paper shows that this difference disappears if populations more complex than a single teacher and a single learner are considered, with the resulting behaviours more similar to the sampler. This suggests that generalisations based on the language produced by Bayesian agents in such homogeneous single agent chains are not warranted. It is not clear which of the assumptions in such models are responsible, but these findings seem to support the rising concerns on the validity of the “acquisitionist” assumption, whereby the locus of language change and evolution is taken to be the first language acquirers (children) as opposed to the competent language users (the adults).
  • De Goede, D., Shapiro, L. P., Wester, F., Swinney, D. A., & Bastiaanse, Y. R. M. (2009). The time course of verb processing in Dutch sentences. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 38(3), 181-199. doi:10.1007/s10936-009-9117-3.

    Abstract

    The verb has traditionally been characterized as the central element in a sentence. Nevertheless, the exact role of the verb during the actual ongoing comprehension of a sentence as it unfolds in time remains largely unknown. This paper reports the results of two Cross-Modal Lexical Priming (CMLP) experiments detailing the pattern of verb priming during on-line processing of Dutch sentences. Results are contrasted with data from a third CMLP experiment on priming of nouns in similar sentences. It is demonstrated that the meaning of a matrix verb remains active throughout the entire matrix clause, while this is not the case for the meaning of a subject head noun. Activation of the meaning of the verb only dissipates upon encountering a clear signal as to the start of a new clause.
  • Hagoort, P., & Levelt, W. J. M. (2009). The speaking brain. Science, 326(5951), 372-373. doi:10.1126/science.1181675.

    Abstract

    How does intention to speak become the action of speaking? It involves the generation of a preverbal message that is tailored to the requirements of a particular language, and through a series of steps, the message is transformed into a linear sequence of speech sounds (1, 2). These steps include retrieving different kinds of information from memory (semantic, syntactic, and phonological), and combining them into larger structures, a process called unification. Despite general agreement about the steps that connect intention to articulation, there is no consensus about their temporal profile or the role of feedback from later steps (3, 4). In addition, since the discovery by the French physician Pierre Paul Broca (in 1865) of the role of the left inferior frontal cortex in speaking, relatively little progress has been made in understanding the neural infrastructure that supports speech production (5). One reason is that the characteristics of natural language are uniquely human, and thus the neurobiology of language lacks an adequate animal model. But on page 445 of this issue, Sahin et al. (6) demonstrate, by recording neuronal activity in the human brain, that different kinds of linguistic information are indeed sequentially processed within Broca's area.
  • Kooijman, V., Hagoort, P., & Cutler, A. (2009). Prosodic structure in early word segmentation: ERP evidence from Dutch ten-month-olds. Infancy, 14, 591 -612. doi:10.1080/15250000903263957.

    Abstract

    Recognizing word boundaries in continuous speech requires detailed knowledge of the native language. In the first year of life, infants acquire considerable word segmentation abilities. Infants at this early stage in word segmentation rely to a large extent on the metrical pattern of their native language, at least in stress-based languages. In Dutch and English (both languages with a preferred trochaic stress pattern), segmentation of strong-weak words develops rapidly between 7 and 10 months of age. Nevertheless, trochaic languages contain not only strong-weak words but also words with a weak-strong stress pattern. In this article, we present electrophysiological evidence of the beginnings of weak-strong word segmentation in Dutch 10-month-olds. At this age, the ability to combine different cues for efficient word segmentation does not yet seem to be completely developed. We provide evidence that Dutch infants still largely rely on strong syllables, even for the segmentation of weak-strong words.
  • Koten Jr., J. W., Wood, G., Hagoort, P., Goebel, R., Propping, P., Willmes, K., & Boomsma, D. I. (2009). Genetic contribution to variation in cognitive function: An fMRI study in twins. Science, 323(5922), 1737-1740. doi:10.1126/science.1167371.

    Abstract

    Little is known about the genetic contribution to individual differences in neural networks subserving cognition function. In this functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) twin study, we found a significant genetic influence on brain activation in neural networks supporting digit working memory tasks. Participants activating frontal-parietal networks responded faster than individuals relying more on language-related brain networks.There were genetic influences on brain activation in language-relevant brain circuits that were atypical for numerical working memory tasks as such. This suggests that differences in cognition might be related to brain activation patterns that differ qualitatively among individuals.
  • De Lange, F. P., Koers, A., Kalkman, J. S., Bleijenberg, G., Hagoort, P., Van der Meer, J. W. M., & Toni, I. (2009). Reply to: "Can CBT substantially change grey matter volume in chronic fatigue syndrome" [Letter to the editor]. Brain, 132(6), e111. doi:10.1093/brain/awn208.
  • De Lange, F., Bleijenberg, G., Van der Meer, J. W. M., Hagoort, P., & Toni, I. (2009). Reply: Change in grey matter volume cannot be assumed to be due to cognitive behavioural therapy [Letter to the editor]. Brain, 132(7), e120. doi:10.1093/brain/awn359.
  • De Lange, F. P., Knoop, H., Bleijenberg, G., Van der Meer, J. W. M., Hagoort, P., & Toni, I. (2009). The experience of fatigue in the brain [Letter to the editor]. Psychological Medicine, 39, 523-524. doi:10.1017/S0033291708004844.
  • Menenti, L., Petersson, K. M., Scheeringa, R., & Hagoort, P. (2009). When elephants fly: Differential sensitivity of right and left inferior frontal gyri to discourse and world knowledge. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 21, 2358-2368. doi:10.1162/jocn.2008.21163.

    Abstract

    Both local discourse and world knowledge are known to influence sentence processing. We investigated how these two sources of information conspire in language comprehension. Two types of critical sentences, correct and world knowledge anomalies, were preceded by either a neutral or a local context. The latter made the world knowledge anomalies more acceptable or plausible. We predicted that the effect of world knowledge anomalies would be weaker for the local context. World knowledge effects have previously been observed in the left inferior frontal region (Brodmann's area 45/47). In the current study, an effect of world knowledge was present in this region in the neutral context. We also observed an effect in the right inferior frontal gyrus, which was more sensitive to the discourse manipulation than the left inferior frontal gyrus. In addition, the left angular gyrus reacted strongly to the degree of discourse coherence between the context and critical sentence. Overall, both world knowledge and the discourse context affect the process of meaning unification, but do so by recruiting partly different sets of brain areas.
  • Newman-Norlund, S. E., Noordzij, M. L., Newman-Norlund, R. D., Volman, I. A., De Ruiter, J. P., Hagoort, P., & Toni, I. (2009). Recipient design in tacit communication. Cognition, 111, 46-54. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2008.12.004.

    Abstract

    The ability to design tailored messages for specific listeners is an important aspect of human communication. The present study investigates whether a mere belief about an addressee’s identity influences the generation and production of a communicative message in a novel, non-verbal communication task. Participants were made to believe they were playing a game with a child or an adult partner, while a confederate acted as both child and adult partners with matched performance and response times. The participants’ belief influenced their behavior, spending longer when interacting with the presumed child addressee, but only during communicative portions of the game, i.e. using time as a tool to place emphasis on target information. This communicative adaptation attenuated with experience, and it was related to personality traits, namely Empathy and Need for Cognition measures. Overall, these findings indicate that novel nonverbal communicative interactions are selected according to a socio-centric perspective, and they are strongly influenced by participants’ traits.
  • Noordzij, M., Newman-Norlund, S. E., De Ruiter, J. P., Hagoort, P., Levinson, S. C., & Toni, I. (2009). Brain mechanisms underlying human communication. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 3:14. doi:10.3389/neuro.09.014.2009.

    Abstract

    Human communication has been described as involving the coding-decoding of a conventional symbol system, which could be supported by parts of the human motor system (i.e. the “mirror neurons system”). However, this view does not explain how these conventions could develop in the first place. Here we target the neglected but crucial issue of how people organize their non-verbal behavior to communicate a given intention without pre-established conventions. We have measured behavioral and brain responses in pairs of subjects during communicative exchanges occurring in a real, interactive, on-line social context. In two fMRI studies, we found robust evidence that planning new communicative actions (by a sender) and recognizing the communicative intention of the same actions (by a receiver) relied on spatially overlapping portions of their brains (the right posterior superior temporal sulcus). The response of this region was lateralized to the right hemisphere, modulated by the ambiguity in meaning of the communicative acts, but not by their sensorimotor complexity. These results indicate that the sender of a communicative signal uses his own intention recognition system to make a prediction of the intention recognition performed by the receiver. This finding supports the notion that our communicative abilities are distinct from both sensorimotor processes and language abilities.
  • Otten, M., & Van Berkum, J. J. A. (2009). Does working memory capacity affect the ability to predict upcoming words in discourse? Brain Research, 1291, 92-101. doi:doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2009.07.042.

    Abstract

    Prior research has indicated that readers and listeners can use information in the prior discourse to rapidly predict specific upcoming words, as the text is unfolding. Here we used event-related potentials to explore whether the ability to make rapid online predictions depends on a reader's working memory capacity (WMC). Readers with low WMC were hypothesized to differ from high WMC readers either in their overall capability to make predictions (because of their lack of cognitive resources). High and low WMC participants read highly constraining stories that supported the prediction of a specific noun, mixed with coherent but essentially unpredictive ‘prime control’ control stories that contained the same content words as the predictive stories. To test whether readers were anticipating upcoming words, critical nouns were preceded by a determiner whose gender agreed or disagreed with the gender of the expected noun. In predictive stories, both high and low WMC readers displayed an early negative deflection (300–600 ms) to unexpected determiners, which was not present in prime control stories. Only the low WMC participants displayed an additional later negativity (900–1500 ms) to unexpected determiners. This pattern of results suggests that WMC does not influence the ability to anticipate upcoming words per se, but does change the way in which readers deal with information that disconfirms the generated prediction.
  • Pijnacker, J., Geurts, B., Van Lambalgen, M., Kan, C. C., Buitelaar, J. K., & Hagoort, P. (2009). Defeasible reasoning in high-functioning adults with autism: Evidence for impaired exception-handling. Neuropsychologia, 47, 644-651. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2008.11.011.

    Abstract

    While autism is one of the most intensively researched psychiatric disorders, little is known about reasoning skills of people with autism. The focus of this study was on defeasible inferences, that is inferences that can be revised in the light of new information. We used a behavioral task to investigate (a) conditional reasoning and (b) the suppression of conditional inferences in high-functioning adults with autism. In the suppression task a possible exception was made salient which could prevent a conclusion from being drawn. We predicted that the autism group would have difficulties dealing with such exceptions because they require mental flexibility to adjust to the context, which is often impaired in autism. The findings confirm our hypothesis that high-functioning adults with autism have a specific difficulty with exception-handling during reasoning. It is suggested that defeasible reasoning is also involved in other cognitive domains. Implications for neural underpinnings of reasoning and autism are discussed.
  • Pijnacker, J., Hagoort, P., Buitelaar, J., Teunisse, J.-P., & Geurts, B. (2009). Pragmatic inferences in high-functioning adults with autism and Asperger syndrome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 39(4), 607-618. doi:10.1007/s10803-008-0661-8.

    Abstract

    Although people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) often have severe problems with pragmatic aspects of language, little is known about their pragmatic reasoning. We carried out a behavioral study on highfunctioning adults with autistic disorder (n = 11) and Asperger syndrome (n = 17) and matched controls (n = 28) to investigate whether they are capable of deriving scalar implicatures, which are generally considered to be pragmatic inferences. Participants were presented with underinformative sentences like ‘‘Some sparrows are birds’’. This sentence is logically true, but pragmatically inappropriate if the scalar implicature ‘‘Not all sparrows are birds’’ is derived. The present findings indicate that the combined ASD group was just as likely as controls to derive scalar implicatures, yet there was a difference between participants with autistic disorder and Asperger syndrome, suggesting a potential differentiation between these disorders in pragmatic reasoning. Moreover, our results suggest that verbal intelligence is a constraint for task performance in autistic disorder but not in Asperger syndrome.
  • Scheeringa, R., Petersson, K. M., Oostenveld, R., Norris, D. G., Hagoort, P., & Bastiaansen, M. C. M. (2009). Trial-by-trial coupling between EEG and BOLD identifies networks related to alpha and theta EEG power increases during working memory maintenance. Neuroimage, 44, 1224-1238. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2008.08.041.

    Abstract

    PET and fMRI experiments have previously shown that several brain regions in the frontal and parietal lobe are involved in working memory maintenance. MEG and EEG experiments have shown parametric increases with load for oscillatory activity in posterior alpha and frontal theta power. In the current study we investigated whether the areas found with fMRI can be associated with these alpha and theta effects by measuring simultaneous EEG and fMRI during a modified Sternberg task This allowed us to correlate EEG at the single trial level with the fMRI BOLD signal by forming a regressor based on single trial alpha and theta power estimates. We observed a right posterior, parametric alpha power increase, which was functionally related to decreases in BOLD in the primary visual cortex and in the posterior part of the right middle temporal gyrus. We relate this finding to the inhibition of neuronal activity that may interfere with WM maintenance. An observed parametric increase in frontal theta power was correlated to a decrease in BOLD in regions that together form the default mode network. We did not observe correlations between oscillatory EEG phenomena and BOLD in the traditional WM areas. In conclusion, the study shows that simultaneous EEG fMRI recordings can be successfully used to identify the emergence of functional networks in the brain during the execution of a cognitive task.
  • Segaert, K., Nygård, G. E., & Wagemans, J. (2009). Identification of everyday objects on the basis of kinetic contours. Vision Research, 49(4), 417-428. doi:10.1016/j.visres.2008.11.012.

    Abstract

    Using kinetic contours derived from everyday objects, we investigated how motion affects object identification. In order not to be distinguishable when static, kinetic contours were made from random dot displays consisting of two regions, inside and outside the object contour. In Experiment 1, the dots were moving in only one of two regions. The objects were identified nearly equally well as soon as the dots either in the figure or in the background started to move. RTs decreased with increasing motion coherence levels and were shorter for complex, less compact objects than for simple, more compact objects. In Experiment 2, objects could be identified when the dots were moving both in the figure and in the background with speed and direction differences between the two. A linear increase in either the speed difference or the direction difference caused a linear decrease in RT for correct identification. In addition, the combination of speed and motion differences appeared to be super-additive.
  • Snijders, T. M., Vosse, T., Kempen, G., Van Berkum, J. J. A., Petersson, K. M., & Hagoort, P. (2009). Retrieval and unification of syntactic structure in sentence comprehension: An fMRI study using word-category ambiguity. Cerebral Cortex, 19, 1493-1503. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhn187.

    Abstract

    Sentence comprehension requires the retrieval of single word information from long-term memory, and the integration of this information into multiword representations. The current functional magnetic resonance imaging study explored the hypothesis that the left posterior temporal gyrus supports the retrieval of lexical-syntactic information, whereas left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG) contributes to syntactic unification. Twenty-eight subjects read sentences and word sequences containing word-category (noun–verb) ambiguous words at critical positions. Regions contributing to the syntactic unification process should show enhanced activation for sentences compared to words, and only within sentences display a larger signal for ambiguous than unambiguous conditions. The posterior LIFG showed exactly this predicted pattern, confirming our hypothesis that LIFG contributes to syntactic unification. The left posterior middle temporal gyrus was activated more for ambiguous than unambiguous conditions (main effect over both sentences and word sequences), as predicted for regions subserving the retrieval of lexical-syntactic information from memory. We conclude that understanding language involves the dynamic interplay between left inferior frontal and left posterior temporal regions.

    Additional information

    suppl1.pdf suppl2_dutch_stimulus.pdf
  • Tesink, C. M. J. Y., Buitelaar, J. K., Petersson, K. M., Van der Gaag, R. J., Kan, C. C., Tendolkar, I., & Hagoort, P. (2009). Neural correlates of pragmatic language comprehension in autism disorders. Brain, 132, 1941-1952. doi:10.1093/brain/awp103.

    Abstract

    Difficulties with pragmatic aspects of communication are universal across individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Here we focused on an aspect of pragmatic language comprehension that is relevant to social interaction in daily life: the integration of speaker characteristics inferred from the voice with the content of a message. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we examined the neural correlates of the integration of voice-based inferences about the speaker’s age, gender or social background, and sentence content in adults with ASD and matched control participants. Relative to the control group, the ASD group showed increased activation in right inferior frontal gyrus (RIFG; Brodmann area 47) for speakerincongruent sentences compared to speaker-congruent sentences. Given that both groups performed behaviourally at a similar level on a debriefing interview outside the scanner, the increased activation in RIFG for the ASD group was interpreted as being compensatory in nature. It presumably reflects spill-over processing from the language dominant left hemisphere due to higher task demands faced by the participants with ASD when integrating speaker characteristics and the content of a spoken sentence. Furthermore, only the control group showed decreased activation for speaker-incongruent relative to speaker-congruent sentences in right ventral medial prefrontal cortex (vMPFC; Brodmann area 10), including right anterior cingulate cortex (ACC; Brodmann area 24/32). Since vMPFC is involved in self-referential processing related to judgments and inferences about self and others, the absence of such a modulation in vMPFC activation in the ASD group possibly points to atypical default self-referential mental activity in ASD. Our results show that in ASD compensatory mechanisms are necessary in implicit, low-level inferential processes in spoken language understanding. This indicates that pragmatic language problems in ASD are not restricted to high-level inferential processes, but encompass the most basic aspects of pragmatic language processing.
  • Tesink, C. M. J. Y., Petersson, K. M., Van Berkum, J. J. A., Van den Brink, D., Buitelaar, J. K., & Hagoort, P. (2009). Unification of speaker and meaning in language comprehension: An fMRI study. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 21, 2085-2099. doi:10.1162/jocn.2008.21161.

    Abstract

    When interpreting a message, a listener takes into account several sources of linguistic and extralinguistic information. Here we focused on one particular form of extralinguistic information, certain speaker characteristics as conveyed by the voice. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we examined the neural structures involved in the unification of sentence meaning and voice-based inferences about the speaker's age, sex, or social background. We found enhanced activation in the inferior frontal gyrus bilaterally (BA 45/47) during listening to sentences whose meaning was incongruent with inferred speaker characteristics. Furthermore, our results showed an overlap in brain regions involved in unification of speaker-related information and those used for the unification of semantic and world knowledge information [inferior frontal gyrus bilaterally (BA 45/47) and left middle temporal gyrus (BA 21)]. These findings provide evidence for a shared neural unification system for linguistic and extralinguistic sources of information and extend the existing knowledge about the role of inferior frontal cortex as a crucial component for unification during language comprehension.
  • Van Berkum, J. J. A., Holleman, B., Nieuwland, M. S., Otten, M., & Murre, J. (2009). Right or wrong? The brain's fast response to morally objectionable statements. Psychological Science, 20, 1092 -1099. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02411.x.

    Abstract

    How does the brain respond to statements that clash with a person's value system? We recorded event-related brain potentials while respondents from contrasting political-ethical backgrounds completed an attitude survey on drugs, medical ethics, social conduct, and other issues. Our results show that value-based disagreement is unlocked by language extremely rapidly, within 200 to 250 ms after the first word that indicates a clash with the reader's value system (e.g., "I think euthanasia is an acceptable/unacceptable…"). Furthermore, strong disagreement rapidly influences the ongoing analysis of meaning, which indicates that even very early processes in language comprehension are sensitive to a person's value system. Our results testify to rapid reciprocal links between neural systems for language and for valuation.

    Additional information

    Critical survey statements (in Dutch)
  • Wang, L., Hagoort, P., & Yang, Y. (2009). Semantic illusion depends on information structure: ERP evidence. Brain Research, 1282, 50-56. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2009.05.069.

    Abstract

    Next to propositional content, speakers distribute information in their utterances in such a way that listeners can make a distinction between new (focused) and given (non-focused) information. This is referred to as information structure. We measured event-related potentials (ERPs) to explore the role of information structure in semantic processing. Following different questions in wh-question-answer pairs (e.g. What kind of vegetable did Ming buy for cooking today? /Who bought the vegetables for cooking today?), the answer sentences (e.g., Ming bought eggplant/beef to cook today.) contained a critical word, which was either semantically appropriate (eggplant) or inappropriate (beef), and either focus or non-focus. The results showed a full N400 effect only when the critical words were in focus position. In non-focus position a strongly reduced N400 effect was observed, in line with the well-known semantic illusion effect. The results suggest that information structure facilitates semantic processing by devoting more resources to focused information.
  • Willems, R. M., & Hagoort, P. (2009). Broca's region: Battles are not won by ignoring half of the facts. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 13(3), 101. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2008.12.001.
  • Willems, R. M., Toni, I., Hagoort, P., & Casasanto, D. (2009). Body-specific motor imagery of hand actions: Neural evidence from right- and left-handers. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 3: 39, pp. 39. doi:10.3389/neuro.09.039.2009.

    Abstract

    If motor imagery uses neural structures involved in action execution, then the neural correlates of imagining an action should differ between individuals who tend to execute the action differently. Here we report fMRI data showing that motor imagery is influenced by the way people habitually perform motor actions with their particular bodies; that is, motor imagery is ‘body-specific’ (Casasanto, 2009). During mental imagery for complex hand actions, activation of cortical areas involved in motor planning and execution was left-lateralized in right-handers but right-lateralized in left-handers. We conclude that motor imagery involves the generation of an action plan that is grounded in the participant’s motor habits, not just an abstract representation at the level of the action’s goal. People with different patterns of motor experience form correspondingly different neurocognitive representations of imagined actions.
  • Willems, R. M., Ozyurek, A., & Hagoort, P. (2009). Differential roles for left inferior frontal and superior temporal cortex in multimodal integration of action and language. Neuroimage, 47, 1992-2004. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.05.066.

    Abstract

    Several studies indicate that both posterior superior temporal sulcus/middle temporal gyrus (pSTS/MTG) and left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG) are involved in integrating information from different modalities. Here we investigated the respective roles of these two areas in integration of action and language information. We exploited the fact that the semantic relationship between language and different forms of action (i.e. co-speech gestures and pantomimes) is radically different. Speech and co-speech gestures are always produced together, and gestures are not unambiguously understood without speech. On the contrary, pantomimes are not necessarily produced together with speech and can be easily understood without speech. We presented speech together with these two types of communicative hand actions in matching or mismatching combinations to manipulate semantic integration load. Left and right pSTS/MTG were only involved in semantic integration of speech and pantomimes. Left IFG on the other hand was involved in integration of speech and co-speech gestures as well as of speech and pantomimes. Effective connectivity analyses showed that depending upon the semantic relationship between language and action, LIFG modulates activation levels in left pSTS. This suggests that integration in pSTS/MTG involves the matching of two input streams for which there is a relatively stable common object representation, whereas integration in LIFG is better characterized as the on-line construction of a new and unified representation of the input streams. In conclusion, pSTS/MTG and LIFG are differentially involved in multimodal integration, crucially depending upon the semantic relationship between the input streams.

    Additional information

    Supplementary table S1
  • Willems, R. M., & Hagoort, P. (2009). Hand preference influences neural correlates of action observation. Brain Research, 1269, 90-104. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2009.02.057.

    Abstract

    It has been argued that we map observed actions onto our own motor system. Here we added to this issue by investigating whether hand preference influences the neural correlates of action observation of simple, essentially meaningless hand actions. Such an influence would argue for an intricate neural coupling between action production and action observation, which goes beyond effects of motor repertoire or explicit motor training, as has been suggested before. Indeed, parts of the human motor system exhibited a close coupling between action production and action observation. Ventral premotor and inferior and superior parietal cortices showed differential activation for left- and right-handers that was similar during action production as well as during action observation. This suggests that mapping observed actions onto the observer's own motor system is a core feature of action observation - at least for actions that do not have a clear goal or meaning. Basic differences in the way we act upon the world are not only reflected in neural correlates of action production, but can also influence the brain basis of action observation.

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