Publications

Displaying 1 - 87 of 87
  • Acheson, D. J., Ganushchak, L. Y., Christoffels, I. K., & Hagoort, P. (2012). Conflict monitoring in speech production: Physiological evidence from bilingual picture naming. Brain and Language, 123, 131 -136. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2012.08.008.

    Abstract

    Self-monitoring in production is critical to correct performance, and recent accounts suggest that such monitoring may occur via the detection of response conflict. The error-related negativity (ERN) is a response-locked event-related potential (ERP) that is sensitive to response conflict. The present study examines whether response conflict is detected in production by exploring a situation where multiple outputs are activated: the bilingual naming of form-related equivalents (i.e. cognates). ERPs were recorded while German-Dutch bilinguals named pictures in their first and second languages. Although cognates were named faster than non-cognates, response conflict was evident in the form of a larger ERN-like response for cognates and adaptation effects on naming, as the magnitude of cognate facilitation was smaller following the naming of cognates. Given that signals of response conflict are present during correct naming, the present results suggest that such conflict may serve as a reliable signal for monitoring in speech production.
  • Adank, P., Davis, M. H., & Hagoort, P. (2012). Neural dissociation in processing noise and accent in spoken language comprehension. Neuropsychologia, 50, 77-84. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2011.10.024.

    Abstract

    We investigated how two distortions of the speech signal–added background noise and speech in an unfamiliar accent - affect comprehension of speech using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). Listeners performed a speeded sentence verification task for speech in quiet in Standard Dutch, in Standard Dutch with added background noise, and for speech in an unfamiliar accent of Dutch. The behavioural results showed slower responses for both types of distortion compared to clear speech, and no difference between the two distortions. The neuroimaging results showed that, compared to clear speech, processing noise resulted in more activity bilaterally in Inferior Frontal Gyrus, Frontal Operculum, while processing accented speech recruited an area in left Superior Temporal Gyrus/Sulcus. It is concluded that the neural bases for processing different distortions of the speech signal dissociate. It is suggested that current models of the cortical organisation of speech are updated to specifically associate bilateral inferior frontal areas with processing external distortions (e.g., background noise) and left temporal areas with speaker-related distortions (e.g., accents).

    Supplementary material

    Adank_2012_Suppl_Info.doc
  • Adank, P., Noordzij, M. L., & Hagoort, P. (2012). The role of planum temporale in processing accent variation in spoken language comprehension. Human Brain Mapping, 33, 360-372. doi:10.1002/hbm.21218.

    Abstract

    A repetition-suppression functional magnetic resonance imaging paradigm was used to explore the neuroanatomical substrates of processing two types of acoustic variation—speaker and accent—during spoken sentence comprehension. Recordings were made for two speakers and two accents: Standard Dutch and a novel accent of Dutch. Each speaker produced sentences in both accents. Participants listened to two sentences presented in quick succession while their haemodynamic responses were recorded in an MR scanner. The first sentence was spoken in Standard Dutch; the second was spoken by the same or a different speaker and produced in Standard Dutch or in the artificial accent. This design made it possible to identify neural responses to a switch in speaker and accent independently. A switch in accent was associated with activations in predominantly left-lateralized areas including posterior temporal regions, including superior temporal gyrus, planum temporale (PT), and supramarginal gyrus, as well as in frontal regions, including left pars opercularis of the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG). A switch in speaker recruited a predominantly right-lateralized network, including middle frontal gyrus and prenuneus. It is concluded that posterior temporal areas, including PT, and frontal areas, including IFG, are involved in processing accent variation in spoken sentence comprehension
  • Araújo, S., Bramão, I., Faísca, L., Petersson, K. M., & Reis, A. (2012). Electrophysiological correlates of impaired reading in dyslexic pre-adolescent children. Brain and Cognition, 79, 79-88. doi:10.1016/j.bandc.2012.02.010.

    Abstract

    In this study, event related potentials (ERPs) were used to investigate the extent to which dyslexics (aged 9–13 years) differ from normally reading controls in early ERPs, which reflect prelexical orthographic processing, and in late ERPs, which reflect implicit phonological processing. The participants performed an implicit reading task, which was manipulated in terms of letter-specific processing, orthographic familiarity, and phonological structure. Comparing consonant- and symbol sequences, the results showed significant differences in the P1 and N1 waveforms in the control but not in the dyslexic group. The reduced P1 and N1 effects in pre-adolescent children with dyslexia suggest a lack of visual specialization for letter-processing. The P1 and N1 components were not sensitive to the familiar vs. less familiar orthographic sequence contrast. The amplitude of the later N320 component was larger for phonologically legal (pseudowords) compared to illegal (consonant sequences) items in both controls and dyslexics. However, the topographic differences showed that the controls were more left-lateralized than the dyslexics. We suggest that the development of the mechanisms that support literacy skills in dyslexics is both delayed and follows a non-normal developmental path. This contributes to the hemispheric differences observed and might reflect a compensatory mechanism in dyslexics.
  • Baggio, G., Van Lambalgen, M., & Hagoort, P. (2012). Language, linguistics and cognition. In R. Kempson, T. Fernando, & N. Asher (Eds.), Philosophy of linguistics (pp. 325-356). Amsterdam: North Holland.

    Abstract

    This chapter provides a partial overview of some currently debated issues in the cognitive science of language. We distinguish two families of problems, which we refer to as ‘language and cognition’ and ‘linguistics and cognition’. Under the first heading we present and discuss the hypothesis that language, in particular the semantics of tense and aspect, is grounded in the planning system. We emphasize the role of non-monotonic inference during language comprehension. We look at the converse issue of the role of linguistic interpretation in reasoning tasks. Under the second heading we investigate the two foremost assumptions of current linguistic methodology, namely intuitions as the only adequate empirical basis of theories of meaning and grammar and the competence-performance distinction, arguing that these are among the heaviest burdens for a truly comprehensive approach to language. Marr’s three-level scheme is proposed as an alternative methodological framework, which we apply in a review of two ERP studies on semantic processing, to the ‘binding problem’ for language, and in a conclusive set of remarks on relating theories in the cognitive science of language.
  • Baggio, G., & Fonseca, A. (2012). Complex dynamics of semantic memory access in reading. Interface: Journal of the Royal Society, 9, 328-338. doi:10.1098/rsif.2011.0289.

    Abstract

    Understanding a word in context relies on a cascade of perceptual and conceptual processes, starting with modality-specific input decoding, and leading to the unification of the word's meaning into a discourse model. One critical cognitive event, turning a sensory stimulus into a meaningful linguistic sign, is the access of a semantic representation from memory. Little is known about the changes that activating a word's meaning brings about in cortical dynamics. We recorded the electroencephalogram (EEG) while participants read sentences that could contain a contextually unexpected word, such as ‘cold’ in ‘In July it is very cold outside’. We reconstructed trajectories in phase space from single-trial EEG time series, and we applied three nonlinear measures of predictability and complexity to each side of the semantic access boundary, estimated as the onset time of the N400 effect evoked by critical words. Relative to controls, unexpected words were associated with larger prediction errors preceding the onset of the N400. Accessing the meaning of such words produced a phase transition to lower entropy states, in which cortical processing becomes more predictable and more regular. Our study sheds new light on the dynamics of information flow through interfaces between sensory and memory systems during language processing.
  • Baggio, G., Van Lambalgen, M., & Hagoort, P. (2012). The processing consequences of compositionality. In M. Werning, W. Hinzen, & E. Machery (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of compositionality (pp. 655-672). New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Baggio, G. (2012). Selective alignment of brain responses by task demands during semantic processing. Neuropsychologia, 50, 655-665. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2012.01.002.

    Abstract

    The way the brain binds together words to form sentences may depend on whether and how the arising cognitive representation is to be used in behavior. The amplitude of the N400 effect in event-related brain potentials is inversely correlated with the degree of fit of a word's meaning into a semantic representation of the preceding discourse. This study reports a double dissociation in the latency characteristics of the N400 effect depending on task demands. When participants silently read words in a sentence context, without issuing a relevant overt response, greater temporal alignment over recording sites occurs for N400 onsets than peaks. If however a behavior is produced – here pressing a button in a binary probe selection task – exactly the opposite pattern is observed, with stronger alignment of N400 peaks than onsets. The peak amplitude of the N400 effect correlates best with the latency characteristic showing less temporal dispersion. These findings suggest that meaning construction in the brain is subtly affected by task demands, and that there is complex functional integration between semantic combinatorics and control systems handling behavioral goals.
  • Bastiaansen, M. C. M., Mazaheri, A., & Jensen, O. (2012). Beyond ERPs: Oscillatory neuronal dynamics. In S. J. Luck, & E. S. Kappenman (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of event-related potential components (pp. 31-50). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Bosman, C., Schoffelen, J.-M., Brunet, N., Oostenveld, R., Bastos, A., Womelsdorf, T., Rubehn, B., Stieglitz, T., De Weerd, P., & Fries, P. (2012). Attentional stimulus selection through selective synchronization between monkey visual areas. Neuron, 75(5), 875-888. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2012.06.037.

    Abstract

    A central motif in neuronal networks is convergence, linking several input neurons to one target neuron. In visual cortex, convergence renders target neurons responsive to complex stimuli. Yet, convergence typically sends multiple stimuli to a target, and the behaviorally relevant stimulus must be selected. We used two stimuli, activating separate electrocorticographic V1 sites, and both activating an electrocorticographic V4 site equally strongly. When one of those stimuli activated one V1 site, it gamma synchronized (60-80 Hz) to V4. When the two stimuli activated two V1 sites, primarily the relevant one gamma synchronized to V4. Frequency bands of gamma activities showed substantial overlap containing the band of interareal coherence. The relevant V1 site had its gamma peak frequency 2-3 Hz higher than the irrelevant V1 site and 4-6 Hz higher than V4. Gamma-mediated interareal influences were predominantly directed from V1 to V4. We propose that selective synchronization renders relevant input effective, thereby modulating effective connectivity.
  • Bramão, I., Francisco, A., Inácio, F., Faísca, L., Reis, A., & Petersson, K. M. (2012). Electrophysiological evidence for colour effects on the naming of colour diagnostic and noncolour diagnostic objects. Visual Cognition, 20, 1164-1185. doi:10.1080/13506285.2012.739215.

    Abstract

    In this study, we investigated the level of visual processing at which surface colour information improves the naming of colour diagnostic and noncolour diagnostic objects. Continuous electroencephalograms were recorded while participants performed a visual object naming task in which coloured and black-and-white versions of both types of objects were presented. The black-and-white and the colour presentations were compared in two groups of event-related potentials (ERPs): (1) The P1 and N1 components, indexing early visual processing; and (2) the N300 and N400 components, which index late visual processing. A colour effect was observed in the P1 and N1 components, for both colour and noncolour diagnostic objects. In addition, for colour diagnostic objects, a colour effect was observed in the N400 component. These results suggest that colour information is important for the naming of colour and noncolour diagnostic objects at different levels of visual processing. It thus appears that the visual system uses colour information, during naming of both object types, at early visual stages; however, for the colour diagnostic objects naming, colour information is also recruited during the late visual processing stages.
  • Bramão, I., Faísca, L., Petersson, K. M., & Reis, A. (2012). The contribution of color to object recognition. In I. Kypraios (Ed.), Advances in object recognition systems (pp. 73-88). Rijeka, Croatia: InTech. Retrieved from http://www.intechopen.com/books/advances-in-object-recognition-systems/the-contribution-of-color-in-object-recognition.

    Abstract

    The cognitive processes involved in object recognition remain a mystery to the cognitive sciences. We know that the visual system recognizes objects via multiple features, including shape, color, texture, and motion characteristics. However, the way these features are combined to recognize objects is still an open question. The purpose of this contribution is to review the research about the specific role of color information in object recognition. Given that the human brain incorporates specialized mechanisms to handle color perception in the visual environment, it is a fair question to ask what functional role color might play in everyday vision.
  • Bramão, I., Faísca, L., Forkstam, C., Inácio, F., Araújo, S., Petersson, K. M., & Reis, A. (2012). The interaction between surface color and color knowledge: Behavioral and electrophysiological evidence. Brain and Cognition, 78, 28-37. doi:10.1016/j.bandc.2011.10.004.

    Abstract

    In this study, we used event-related potentials (ERPs) to evaluate the contribution of surface color and color knowledge information in object identification. We constructed two color-object verification tasks – a surface and a knowledge verification task – using high color diagnostic objects; both typical and atypical color versions of the same object were presented. Continuous electroencephalogram was recorded from 26 subjects. A cluster randomization procedure was used to explore the differences between typical and atypical color objects in each task. In the color knowledge task, we found two significant clusters that were consistent with the N350 and late positive complex (LPC) effects. Atypical color objects elicited more negative ERPs compared to typical color objects. The color effect found in the N350 time window suggests that surface color is an important cue that facilitates the selection of a stored object representation from long-term memory. Moreover, the observed LPC effect suggests that surface color activates associated semantic knowledge about the object, including color knowledge representations. We did not find any significant differences between typical and atypical color objects in the surface color verification task, which indicates that there is little contribution of color knowledge to resolve the surface color verification. Our main results suggest that surface color is an important visual cue that triggers color knowledge, thereby facilitating object identification.
  • Brookshire, G., & Casasanto, D. (2012). Motivation and motor control: Hemispheric specialization for approach motivation reverses with handedness. PLoS One, 7(4), e36036. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0036036.

    Abstract

    Background: According to decades of research on affective motivation in the human brain, approach motivational states are supported primarily by the left hemisphere and avoidance states by the right hemisphere. The underlying cause of this specialization, however, has remained unknown. Here we conducted a first test of the Sword and Shield Hypothesis (SSH), according to which the hemispheric laterality of affective motivation depends on the laterality of motor control for the dominant hand (i.e., the "sword hand," used preferentially to perform approach actions) and the nondominant hand (i.e., the "shield hand," used preferentially to perform avoidance actions). Methodology/Principal Findings: To determine whether the laterality of approach motivation varies with handedness, we measured alpha-band power (an inverse index of neural activity) in right- and left-handers during resting-state electroencephalography and analyzed hemispheric alpha-power asymmetries as a function of the participants' trait approach motivational tendencies. Stronger approach motivation was associated with more left-hemisphere activity in right-handers, but with more right-hemisphere activity in left-handers. Conclusions: The hemispheric correlates of approach motivation reversed between right- and left-handers, consistent with the way they typically use their dominant and nondominant hands to perform approach and avoidance actions. In both right- and left-handers, approach motivation was lateralized to the same hemisphere that controls the dominant hand. This covariation between neural systems for action and emotion provides initial support for the SSH
  • Brouwer, H., Fitz, H., & Hoeks, J. (2012). Getting real about semantic illusions: Rethinking the functional role of the P600 in language comprehension. Brain Research, 1446, 127-143. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2012.01.055.

    Abstract

    In traditional theories of language comprehension, syntactic and semantic processing are inextricably linked. This assumption has been challenged by the ‘Semantic Illusion Effect’ found in studies using Event Related brain Potentials. Semantically anomalous sentences did not produce the expected increase in N400 amplitude but rather one in P600 amplitude. To explain these findings, complex models have been devised in which an independent semantic processing stream can arrive at a sentence interpretation that may differ from the interpretation prescribed by the syntactic structure of the sentence. We review five such multi-stream models and argue that they do not account for the full range of relevant results because they assume that the amplitude of the N400 indexes some form of semantic integration. Based on recent evidence we argue that N400 amplitude might reflect the retrieval of lexical information from memory. On this view, the absence of an N400-effect in Semantic Illusion sentences can be explained in terms of priming. Furthermore, we suggest that semantic integration, which has previously been linked to the N400 component, might be reflected in the P600 instead. When combined, these functional interpretations result in a single-stream account of language processing that can explain all of the Semantic Illusion data.
  • Casasanto, D., & Henetz, T. (2012). Handedness shapes children’s abstract concepts. Cognitive Science, 36, 359-372. doi:10.1111/j.1551-6709.2011.01199.x.

    Abstract

    Can children’s handedness influence how they represent abstract concepts like kindness and intelligence? Here we show that from an early age, right-handers associate rightward space more strongly with positive ideas and leftward space with negative ideas, but the opposite is true for left-handers. In one experiment, children indicated where on a diagram a preferred toy and a dispreferred toy should go. Right-handers tended to assign the preferred toy to a box on the right and the dispreferred toy to a box on the left. Left-handers showed the opposite pattern. In a second experiment, children judged which of two cartoon animals looked smarter (or dumber) or nicer (or meaner). Right-handers attributed more positive qualities to animals on the right, but left-handers to animals on the left. These contrasting associations between space and valence cannot be explained by exposure to language or cultural conventions, which consistently link right with good. Rather, right- and left-handers implicitly associated positive valence more strongly with the side of space on which they can act more fluently with their dominant hands. Results support the body-specificity hypothesis (Casasanto, 2009), showing that children with different kinds of bodies think differently in corresponding ways.
  • Casasanto, D. (2012). Whorfian hypothesis. In J. L. Jackson, Jr. (Ed.), Oxford Bibliographies Online: Anthropology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/OBO/9780199766567-0058.

    Abstract

    Introduction The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (a.k.a. the Whorfian hypothesis) concerns the relationship between language and thought. Neither the anthropological linguist Edward Sapir (b. 1884–d. 1939) nor his student Benjamin Whorf (b. 1897–d. 1941) ever formally stated any single hypothesis about the influence of language on nonlinguistic cognition and perception. On the basis of their writings, however, two proposals emerged, generating decades of controversy among anthropologists, linguists, philosophers, and psychologists. According to the more radical proposal, linguistic determinism, the languages that people speak rigidly determine the way they perceive and understand the world. On the more moderate proposal, linguistic relativity, habits of using language influence habits of thinking. As a result, people who speak different languages think differently in predictable ways. During the latter half of the 20th century, the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis was widely regarded as false. Around the turn of the 21st century, however, experimental evidence reopened debate about the extent to which language shapes nonlinguistic cognition and perception. Scientific tests of linguistic determinism and linguistic relativity help to clarify what is universal in the human mind and what depends on the particulars of people’s physical and social experience. General Overviews and Foundational Texts Writing on the relationship between language and thought predates Sapir and Whorf, and extends beyond the academy. The 19th-century German philosopher Wilhelm von Humboldt argued that language constrains people’s worldview, foreshadowing the idea of linguistic determinism later articulated in Sapir 1929 and Whorf 1956 (Humboldt 1988). The intuition that language radically determines thought has been explored in works of fiction such as Orwell’s dystopian fantasy 1984 (Orwell 1949). Although there is little empirical support for radical linguistic determinism, more moderate forms of linguistic relativity continue to generate influential research, reviewed from an anthropologist’s perspective in Lucy 1997, from a psychologist’s perspective in Hunt and Agnoli 1991, and discussed from multidisciplinary perspectives in Gumperz and Levinson 1996 and Gentner and Goldin-Meadow 2003.
  • Chang, F., Janciauskas, M., & Fitz, H. (2012). Language adaptation and learning: Getting explicit about implicit learning. Language and Linguistics Compass, 6, 259-278. doi:10.1002/lnc3.337.

    Abstract

    Linguistic adaptation is a phenomenon where language representations change in response to linguistic input. Adaptation can occur on multiple linguistic levels such as phonology (tuning of phonotactic constraints), words (repetition priming), and syntax (structural priming). The persistent nature of these adaptations suggests that they may be a form of implicit learning and connectionist models have been developed which instantiate this hypothesis. Research on implicit learning, however, has also produced evidence that explicit chunk knowledge is involved in the performance of these tasks. In this review, we examine how these interacting implicit and explicit processes may change our understanding of language learning and processing.
  • Chu, M., & Kita, S. (2012). The role of spontaneous gestures in spatial problem solving. In E. Efthimiou, G. Kouroupetroglou, & S.-E. Fotinea (Eds.), Gesture and sign language in human-computer interaction and embodied communication: 9th International Gesture Workshop, GW 2011, Athens, Greece, May 25-27, 2011, revised selected papers (pp. 57-68). Heidelberg: Springer.

    Abstract

    When solving spatial problems, people often spontaneously produce hand gestures. Recent research has shown that our knowledge is shaped by the interaction between our body and the environment. In this article, we review and discuss evidence on: 1) how spontaneous gesture can reveal the development of problem solving strategies when people solve spatial problems; 2) whether producing gestures can enhance spatial problem solving performance. We argue that when solving novel spatial problems, adults go through deagentivization and internalization processes, which are analogous to young children’s cognitive development processes. Furthermore, gesture enhances spatial problem solving performance. The beneficial effect of gesturing can be extended to non-gesturing trials and can be generalized to a different spatial task that shares similar spatial transformation processes.
  • Chu, M., & Kita, S. (2012). The nature of the beneficial role of spontaneous gesture in spatial problem solving [Abstract]. Cognitive Processing; Special Issue "ICSC 2012, the 5th International Conference on Spatial Cognition: Space and Embodied Cognition". Oral Presentations, 13(Suppl. 1), S39.

    Abstract

    Spontaneous gestures play an important role in spatial problem solving. We investigated the functional role and underlying mechanism of spontaneous gestures in spatial problem solving. In Experiment 1, 132 participants were required to solve a mental rotation task (see Figure 1) without speaking. Participants gestured more frequently in difficult trials than in easy trials. In Experiment 2, 66 new participants were given two identical sets of mental rotation tasks problems, as the one used in experiment 1. Participants who were encouraged to gesture in the first set of mental rotation task problemssolved more problems correctly than those who were allowed to gesture or those who were prohibited from gesturing both in the first set and in the second set in which all participants were prohibited from gesturing. The gestures produced by the gestureencouraged group and the gesture-allowed group were not qualitatively different. In Experiment 3, 32 new participants were first given a set of mental rotation problems and then a second set of nongesturing paper folding problems. The gesture-encouraged group solved more problems correctly in the first set of mental rotation problems and the second set of non-gesturing paper folding problems. We concluded that gesture improves spatial problem solving. Furthermore, gesture has a lasting beneficial effect even when gesture is not available and the beneficial effect is problem-general.We suggested that gesture enhances spatial problem solving by provide a rich sensori-motor representation of the physical world and pick up information that is less readily available to visuo-spatial processes.
  • Connell, L., Cai, Z. G., & Holler, J. (2012). Do you see what I'm singing? Visuospatial movement biases pitch perception. In N. Miyake, D. Peebles, & R. P. Cooper (Eds.), Proceedings of the 34th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2012) (pp. 252-257). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.

    Abstract

    The nature of the connection between musical and spatial processing is controversial. While pitch may be described in spatial terms such as “high” or “low”, it is unclear whether pitch and space are associated but separate dimensions or whether they share representational and processing resources. In the present study, we asked participants to judge whether a target vocal note was the same as (or different from) a preceding cue note. Importantly, target trials were presented as video clips where a singer sometimes gestured upward or downward while singing that target note, thus providing an alternative, concurrent source of spatial information. Our results show that pitch discrimination was significantly biased by the spatial movement in gesture. These effects were eliminated by spatial memory load but preserved under verbal memory load conditions. Together, our findings suggest that pitch and space have a shared representation such that the mental representation of pitch is audiospatial in nature.
  • Cristia, A., Seidl, A., Vaughn, C., Schmale, R., Bradlow, A., & Floccia, C. (2012). Linguistic processing of accented speech across the lifespan. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 479. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00479.

    Abstract

    In most of the world, people have regular exposure to multiple accents. Therefore, learning to quickly process accented speech is a prerequisite to successful communication. In this paper, we examine work on the perception of accented speech across the lifespan, from early infancy to late adulthood. Unfamiliar accents initially impair linguistic processing by infants, children, younger adults, and older adults, but listeners of all ages come to adapt to accented speech. Emergent research also goes beyond these perceptual abilities, by assessing links with production and the relative contributions of linguistic knowledge and general cognitive skills. We conclude by underlining points of convergence across ages, and the gaps left to face in future work.
  • Cristia, A., & Peperkamp, S. (2012). Generalizing without encoding specifics: Infants infer phonotactic patterns on sound classes. In A. K. Biller, E. Y. Chung, & A. E. Kimball (Eds.), Proceedings of the 36th Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development (BUCLD 36) (pp. 126-138). Somerville, Mass.: Cascadilla Press.

    Abstract

    publication expected April 2012
  • Demir, Ö. E., So, W.-C., Ozyurek, A., & Goldin-Meadow, S. (2012). Turkish- and English-speaking children display sensitivity to perceptual context in referring expressions they produce in speech and gesture. Language and Cognitive Processes, 27, 844 -867. doi:10.1080/01690965.2011.589273.

    Abstract

    Speakers choose a particular expression based on many factors, including availability of the referent in the perceptual context. We examined whether, when expressing referents, monolingual English- and Turkish-speaking children: (1) are sensitive to perceptual context, (2) express this sensitivity in language-specific ways, and (3) use co-speech gestures to specify referents that are underspecified. We also explored the mechanisms underlying children's sensitivity to perceptual context. Children described short vignettes to an experimenter under two conditions: The characters in the vignettes were present in the perceptual context (perceptual context); the characters were absent (no perceptual context). Children routinely used nouns in the no perceptual context condition, but shifted to pronouns (English-speaking children) or omitted arguments (Turkish-speaking children) in the perceptual context condition. Turkish-speaking children used underspecified referents more frequently than English-speaking children in the perceptual context condition; however, they compensated for the difference by using gesture to specify the forms. Gesture thus gives children learning structurally different languages a way to achieve comparable levels of specification while at the same time adhering to the referential expressions dictated by their language.
  • Dimitrova, D. V., Stowe, L. A., Redeker, G., & Hoeks, J. C. J. (2012). Less is not more: Neural responses to missing and superfluous accents in context. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 24, 2400-2418. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_00302.

    Abstract

    Prosody, particularly accent, aids comprehension by drawing attention to important elements such as the information that answers a question. A study using ERP registration investigated how the brain deals with the interpretation of prosodic prominence. Sentences were embedded in short dialogues and contained accented elements that were congruous or incongruous with respect to a preceding question. In contrast to previous studies, no explicit prosodic judgment task was added. Robust effects of accentuation were evident in the form of an “accent positivity” (200–500 msec) for accented elements irrespective of their congruity. Our results show that incongruously accented elements, that is, superfluous accents, activate a specific set of neural systems that is inactive in case of incongruously unaccented elements, that is, missing accents. Superfluous accents triggered an early positivity around 100 msec poststimulus, followed by a right-lateralized negative effect (N400). This response suggests that redundant information is identified immediately and leads to the activation of a neural system that is associated with semantic processing (N400). No such effects were found when contextually expected accents were missing. In a later time window, both missing and superfluous accents triggered a late positivity on midline electrodes, presumably related to making sense of both kinds of mismatching stimuli. These results challenge previous findings of greater processing for missing accents and suggest that the natural processing of prosody involves a set of distinct, temporally organized neural systems.
  • Dolscheid, S., Hunnius, S., Casasanto, D., & Majid, A. (2012). The sound of thickness: Prelinguistic infants' associations of space and pitch. In N. Miyake, D. Peebles, & R. P. Cooper (Eds.), Proceedings of the 34th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2012) (pp. 306-311). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.

    Abstract

    People often talk about musical pitch in terms of spatial metaphors. In English, for instance, pitches can be high or low, whereas in other languages pitches are described as thick or thin. According to psychophysical studies, metaphors in language can also shape people’s nonlinguistic space-pitch representations. But does language establish mappings between space and pitch in the first place or does it modify preexisting associations? Here we tested 4-month-old Dutch infants’ sensitivity to height-pitch and thickness-pitch mappings in two preferential looking tasks. Dutch infants looked significantly longer at cross-modally congruent stimuli in both experiments, indicating that infants are sensitive to space-pitch associations prior to language. This early presence of space-pitch mappings suggests that these associations do not originate from language. Rather, language may build upon pre-existing mappings and change them gradually via some form of competitive associative learning.
  • Fessler, D. M., Stieger, S., Asaridou, S. S., Bahia, U., Cravalho, M., de Barros, P., Delgado, T., Fisher, M. L., Frederick, D., Perez, P. G., Goetz, C., Haley, K., Jackson, J., Kushnick, G., Lew, K., Pain, E., Florindo, P. P., Pisor, A., Sinaga, E., Sinaga, L., Smolich, L., Sun, D. M., & Voracek, M. (2012). Testing a postulated case of intersexual selection in humans: The role of foot size in judgments of physical attractiveness and age. Evolution and Human Behavior, 33, 147-164. doi:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2011.08.002.

    Abstract

    The constituents of attractiveness differ across the sexes. Many relevant traits are dimorphic, suggesting that they are the product of intersexual selection. However, direction of causality is generally difficult to determine, as aesthetic criteria can as readily result from, as cause, dimorphism. Women have proportionately smaller feet than men. Prior work on the role of foot size in attractiveness suggests an asymmetry across the sexes, as small feet enhance female appearance, yet average, rather than large, feet are preferred on men. Previous investigations employed crude stimuli and limited samples. Here, we report on multiple cross-cultural studies designed to overcome these limitations. With the exception of one rural society, we find that small foot size is preferred when judging women, yet no equivalent preference applies to men. Similarly, consonant with the thesis that a preference for youth underlies intersexual selection acting on women, we document an inverse relationship between foot size and perceived age. Examination of preferences regarding, and inferences from, feet viewed in isolation suggests different roles for proportionality and absolute size in judgments of female and male bodies. Although the majority of these results bolster the conclusion that pedal dimorphism is the product of intersexual selection, the picture is complicated by the reversal of the usual preference for small female feet found in one rural society. While possibly explicable in terms of greater emphasis on female economic productivity relative to beauty, the latter finding underscores the importance of employing diverse samples when exploring postulated evolved aesthetic preferences.

    Supplementary material

    Fessler_2011_Suppl_material.pdf
  • Fitch, W. T., Friederici, A. D., & Hagoort, P. (Eds.). (2012). Pattern perception and computational complexity [Special Issue]. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, 367 (1598).
  • Fitch, W. T., Friederici, A. D., & Hagoort, P. (2012). Pattern perception and computational complexity: Introduction to the special issue. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, 367 (1598), 1925-1932. doi:10.1098/rstb.2012.0099.

    Abstract

    Research on pattern perception and rule learning, grounded in formal language theory (FLT) and using artificial grammar learning paradigms, has exploded in the last decade. This approach marries empirical research conducted by neuroscientists, psychologists and ethologists with the theory of computation and FLT, developed by mathematicians, linguists and computer scientists over the last century. Of particular current interest are comparative extensions of this work to non-human animals, and neuroscientific investigations using brain imaging techniques. We provide a short introduction to the history of these fields, and to some of the dominant hypotheses, to help contextualize these ongoing research programmes, and finally briefly introduce the papers in the current issue.
  • Fonteijn, H. M., Modat, M., Clarkson, M. J., Barnes, J., Lehmann, M., Hobbs, N. Z., Scahill, R. I., Tabrizi, S. J., Ourselin, S., Fox, N. C., & Alexander, D. C. (2012). An event-based model for disease progression and its application in familial Alzheimer's disease and Huntington's disease. NeuroImage, 60, 1880-1889. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.01.062.

    Abstract

    Understanding the progression of neurological diseases is vital for accurate and early diagnosis and treatment planning. We introduce a new characterization of disease progression, which describes the disease as a series of events, each comprising a significant change in patient state. We provide novel algorithms to learn the event ordering from heterogeneous measurements over a whole patient cohort and demonstrate using combined imaging and clinical data from familial-Alzheimer's and Huntington's disease cohorts. Results provide new detail in the progression pattern of these diseases, while confirming known features, and give unique insight into the variability of progression over the cohort. The key advantage of the new model and algorithms over previous progression models is that they do not require a priori division of the patients into clinical stages. The model and its formulation extend naturally to a wide range of other diseases and developmental processes and accommodate cross-sectional and longitudinal input data.
  • De la Fuente, J., Santiago, J., Roma, A., Dumitrache, C., & Casasanto, D. (2012). Facing the past: cognitive flexibility in the front-back mapping of time [Abstract]. Cognitive Processing; Special Issue "ICSC 2012, the 5th International Conference on Spatial Cognition: Space and Embodied Cognition". Poster Presentations, 13(Suppl. 1), S58.

    Abstract

    In many languages the future is in front and the past behind, but in some cultures (like Aymara) the past is in front. Is it possible to find this mapping as an alternative conceptualization of time in other cultures? If so, what are the factors that affect its choice out of the set of available alternatives? In a paper and pencil task, participants placed future or past events either in front or behind a character (a schematic head viewed from above). A sample of 24 Islamic participants (whose language also places the future in front and the past behind) tended to locate the past event in the front box more often than Spanish participants. This result might be due to the greater cultural value assigned to tradition in Islamic culture. The same pattern was found in a sample of Spanish elders (N = 58), what may support that conclusion. Alternatively, the crucial factor may be the amount of attention paid to the past. In a final study, young Spanish adults (N = 200) who had just answered a set of questions about their past showed the past-in-front pattern, whereas questions about their future exacerbated the future-in-front pattern. Thus, the attentional explanation was supported: attended events are mapped to front space in agreement with the experiential connection between attending and seeing. When attention is paid to the past, it tends to occupy the front location in spite of available alternative mappings in the language-culture.
  • Hagoort, P. (2012). Het muzikale brein. Speling: Tijdschrift voor bezinning. Muziek als bron van bezieling, 64(1), 44-48.
  • Hagoort, P. (2012). Het sprekende brein. MemoRad, 17(1), 27-30.

    Abstract

    Geen andere soort dan homo sapiens heeft in de loop van zijn evolutionaire geschiedenis een communicatiesysteem ontwikkeld waarin een eindig aantal symbolen samen met een reeks van regels voor het combineren daarvan een oneindig aantal uitdrukkingen mogelijk maakt. Dit natuurlijke taalsysteem stelt leden van onze soort in staat gedachten een uiterlijke vorm te geven en uit te wisselen met de sociale groep en, door de uitvinding van schriftsystemen, met de gehele samenleving. Spraak en taal zijn effectieve middelen voor het behoud van sociale cohesie in samenlevingen waarvan de groepsgrootte en de complexe sociale organisatie van dien aard is dat dit niet langer kan door middel van ‘vlooien’, de wijze waarop onze genetische buren, de primaten van de oude wereld, sociale cohesie bevorderen [1,2].
  • Hagoort, P. (2012). From ants to music and language [Preface]. In A. D. Patel, Music, language, and the brain [Chinese translation] (pp. 9-10). Shanghai: East China Normal University Press Ltd.
  • Hallé, P., & Cristia, A. (2012). Global and detailed speech representations in early language acquisition. In S. Fuchs, M. Weirich, D. Pape, & P. Perrier (Eds.), Speech planning and dynamics (pp. 11-38). Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

    Abstract

    We review data and hypotheses dealing with the mental representations for perceived and produced speech that infants build and use over the course of learning a language. In the early stages of speech perception and vocal production, before the emergence of a receptive or a productive lexicon, the dominant picture emerging from the literature suggests rather non-analytic representations based on units of the size of the syllable: Young children seem to parse speech into syllable-sized units in spite of their ability to detect sound equivalence based on shared phonetic features. Once a productive lexicon has emerged, word form representations are initially rather underspecified phonetically but gradually become more specified with lexical growth, up to the phoneme level. The situation is different for the receptive lexicon, in which phonetic specification for consonants and vowels seem to follow different developmental paths. Consonants in stressed syllables are somewhat well specified already at the first signs of a receptive lexicon, and become even better specified with lexical growth. Vowels seem to follow a different developmental path, with increasing flexibility throughout lexical development. Thus, children come to exhibit a consonant vowel asymmetry in lexical representations, which is clear in adult representations.
  • Hanulikova, A., Van Alphen, P. M., Van Goch, M. M., & Weber, A. (2012). When one person’s mistake is another’s standard usage: The effect of foreign accent on syntactic processing. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 24(4), 878-887. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_00103.

    Abstract

    How do native listeners process grammatical errors that are frequent in non-native speech? We investigated whether the neural correlates of syntactic processing are modulated by speaker identity. ERPs to gender agreement errors in sentences spoken by a native speaker were compared with the same errors spoken by a non-native speaker. In line with previous research, gender violations in native speech resulted in a P600 effect (larger P600 for violations in comparison with correct sentences), but when the same violations were produced by the non-native speaker with a foreign accent, no P600 effect was observed. Control sentences with semantic violations elicited comparable N400 effects for both the native and the non-native speaker, confirming no general integration problem in foreign-accented speech. The results demonstrate that the P600 is modulated by speaker identity, extending our knowledge about the role of speaker's characteristics on neural correlates of speech processing.
  • Hanulikova, A., Dediu, D., Fang, Z., Basnakova, J., & Huettig, F. (2012). Individual differences in the acquisition of a complex L2 phonology: A training study. Language Learning, 62(Supplement S2), 79-109. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9922.2012.00707.x.

    Abstract

    Many learners of a foreign language (L2) struggle to correctly pronounce newly-learned speech sounds, yet many others achieve this with apparent ease. Here we explored how a training study of learning complex consonant clusters at the very onset of the L2 acquisition can inform us about L2 learning in general and individual differences in particular. To this end, adult Dutch native speakers were trained on Slovak words with complex consonant clusters (e.g., pstruh /pstrux/‘trout’, štvrť /ʃtvrc/ ‘quarter’) using auditory and orthographic input. In the same session following training, participants were tested on a battery of L2 perception and production tasks. The battery of L2 tests was repeated twice more with one week between each session. In the first session, an additional battery of control tests was used to test participants’ native language (L1) skills. Overall, in line with some previous research, participants showed only weak learning effects across the L2 perception tasks. However, there were considerable individual differences across all L2 tasks, which remained stable across sessions. Only two participants showed overall high L2 production performance that fell within 2 standard deviations of the mean ratings obtained for an L1 speaker. The mispronunciation detection task was the only perception task which significantly predicted production performance in the final session. We conclude by discussing several recommendations for future L2 learning studies.
  • Holler, J., Kelly, S., Hagoort, P., & Ozyurek, A. (2012). When gestures catch the eye: The influence of gaze direction on co-speech gesture comprehension in triadic communication. In N. Miyake, D. Peebles, & R. P. Cooper (Eds.), Proceedings of the 34th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2012) (pp. 467-472). Austin, TX: Cognitive Society. Retrieved from http://mindmodeling.org/cogsci2012/papers/0092/index.html.

    Abstract

    Co-speech gestures are an integral part of human face-to-face communication, but little is known about how pragmatic factors influence our comprehension of those gestures. The present study investigates how different types of recipients process iconic gestures in a triadic communicative situation. Participants (N = 32) took on the role of one of two recipients in a triad and were presented with 160 video clips of an actor speaking, or speaking and gesturing. Crucially, the actor’s eye gaze was manipulated in that she alternated her gaze between the two recipients. Participants thus perceived some messages in the role of addressed recipient and some in the role of unaddressed recipient. In these roles, participants were asked to make judgements concerning the speaker’s messages. Their reaction times showed that unaddressed recipients did comprehend speaker’s gestures differently to addressees. The findings are discussed with respect to automatic and controlled processes involved in gesture comprehension.
  • Jasmin, K., & Casasanto, D. (2012). The QWERTY Effect: How typing shapes the meanings of words. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 19, 499-504. doi:10.3758/s13423-012-0229-7.

    Abstract

    The QWERTY keyboard mediates communication for millions of language users. Here, we investigated whether differences in the way words are typed correspond to differences in their meanings. Some words are spelled with more letters on the right side of the keyboard and others with more letters on the left. In three experiments, we tested whether asymmetries in the way people interact with keys on the right and left of the keyboard influence their evaluations of the emotional valence of the words. We found the predicted relationship between emotional valence and QWERTY key position across three languages (English, Spanish, and Dutch). Words with more right-side letters were rated as more positive in valence, on average, than words with more left-side letters: the QWERTY effect. This effect was strongest in new words coined after QWERTY was invented and was also found in pseudowords. Although these data are correlational, the discovery of a similar pattern across languages, which was strongest in neologisms, suggests that the QWERTY keyboard is shaping the meanings of words as people filter language through their fingers. Widespread typing introduces a new mechanism by which semanntic changes in language can arise.
  • Junge, C., Kooijman, V., Hagoort, P., & Cutler, A. (2012). Rapid recognition at 10 months as a predictor of language development. Developmental Science, 15, 463-473. doi:10.1111/j.1467-7687.2012.1144.x.

    Abstract

    Infants’ ability to recognize words in continuous speech is vital for building a vocabulary.We here examined the amount and type of exposure needed for 10-month-olds to recognize words. Infants first heard a word, either embedded within an utterance or in isolation, then recognition was assessed by comparing event-related potentials to this word versus a word that they had not heard directly before. Although all 10-month-olds showed recognition responses to words first heard in isolation, not all infants showed such responses to words they had first heard within an utterance. Those that did succeed in the latter, harder, task, however, understood more words and utterances when re-tested at 12 months, and understood more words and produced more words at 24 months, compared with those who had shown no such recognition response at 10 months. The ability to rapidly recognize the words in continuous utterances is clearly linked to future language development.
  • Junge, C., Cutler, A., & Hagoort, P. (2012). Electrophysiological evidence of early word learning. Neuropsychologia, 50, 3702-3712. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2012.10.012.

    Abstract

    Around their first birthday infants begin to talk, yet they comprehend words long before. This study investigated the event-related potentials (ERP) responses of nine-month-olds on basic level picture-word pairings. After a familiarization phase of six picture-word pairings per semantic category, comprehension for novel exemplars was tested in a picture-word matching paradigm. ERPs time-locked to pictures elicited a modulation of the Negative Central (Nc) component, associated with visual attention and recognition. It was attenuated by category repetition as well as by the type-token ratio of picture context. ERPs time-locked to words in the training phase became more negative with repetition (N300-600), but there was no influence of picture type-token ratio, suggesting that infants have identified the concept of each picture before a word was presented. Results from the test phase provided clear support that infants integrated word meanings with (novel) picture context. Here, infants showed different ERP responses for words that did or did not align with the picture context: a phonological mismatch (N200) and a semantic mismatch (N400). Together, results were informative of visual categorization, word recognition and word-to-world-mappings, all three crucial processes for vocabulary construction.
  • Kelly, S., Healey, M., Ozyurek, A., & Holler, J. (2012). The communicative influence of gesture and action during speech comprehension: Gestures have the upper hand [Abstract]. Abstracts of the Acoustics 2012 Hong Kong conference published in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 131, 3311. doi:10.1121/1.4708385.

    Abstract

    Hand gestures combine with speech to form a single integrated system of meaning during language comprehension (Kelly et al., 2010). However, it is unknown whether gesture is uniquely integrated with speech or is processed like any other manual action. Thirty-one participants watched videos presenting speech with gestures or manual actions on objects. The relationship between the speech and gesture/action was either complementary (e.g., “He found the answer,” while producing a calculating gesture vs. actually using a calculator) or incongruent (e.g., the same sentence paired with the incongruent gesture/action of stirring with a spoon). Participants watched the video (prime) and then responded to a written word (target) that was or was not spoken in the video prime (e.g., “found” or “cut”). ERPs were taken to the primes (time-locked to the spoken verb, e.g., “found”) and the written targets. For primes, there was a larger frontal N400 (semantic processing) to incongruent vs. congruent items for the gesture, but not action, condition. For targets, the P2 (phonemic processing) was smaller for target words following congruent vs. incongruent gesture, but not action, primes. These findings suggest that hand gestures are integrated with speech in a privileged fashion compared to manual actions on objects.
  • Kempen, G., Olsthoorn, N., & Sprenger, S. (2012). Grammatical workspace sharing during language production and language comprehension: Evidence from grammatical multitasking. Language and Cognitive Processes, 27, 345-380. doi:10.1080/01690965.2010.544583.

    Abstract

    Grammatical encoding and grammatical decoding (in sentence production and comprehension, respectively) are often portrayed as independent modalities of grammatical performance that only share declarative resources: lexicon and grammar. The processing resources subserving these modalities are supposed to be distinct. In particular, one assumes the existence of two workspaces where grammatical structures are assembled and temporarily maintained—one for each modality. An alternative theory holds that the two modalities share many of their processing resources and postulates a single mechanism for the online assemblage and short-term storage of grammatical structures: a shared workspace. We report two experiments with a novel “grammatical multitasking” paradigm: the participants had to read (i.e., decode) and to paraphrase (encode) sentences presented in fragments, responding to each input fragment as fast as possible with a fragment of the paraphrase. The main finding was that grammatical constraints with respect to upcoming input that emanate from decoded sentence fragments are immediately replaced by grammatical expectations emanating from the structure of the corresponding paraphrase fragments. This evidences that the two modalities have direct access to, and operate upon, the same (i.e., token-identical) grammatical structures. This is possible only if the grammatical encoding and decoding processes command the same, shared grammatical workspace. Theoretical implications for important forms of grammatical multitasking—self-monitoring, turn-taking in dialogue, speech shadowing, and simultaneous translation—are explored.
  • Kim, A., & Lai, V. T. (2012). Rapid interactions between lexical semantic and word form analysis during word recognition in context: Evidence from ERPs. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 24, 1104-1112. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_00148.

    Abstract

    We used event-related potentials (ERPs) to investigate the timecourse of interactions between lexical-semantic and sub-lexical visual word-form processing during word recognition. Participants read sentence-embedded pseudowords that orthographically resembled a contextually-supported real word (e.g., “She measured the flour so she could bake a ceke …”) or did not (e.g., “She measured the flour so she could bake a tont …”) along with nonword consonant strings (e.g., “She measured the flour so she could bake a srdt …”). Pseudowords that resembled a contextually-supported real word (“ceke”) elicited an enhanced positivity at 130 msec (P130), relative to real words (e.g., “She measured the flour so she could bake a cake …”). Pseudowords that did not resemble a plausible real word (“tont”) enhanced the N170 component, as did nonword consonant strings (“srdt”). The effect pattern shows that the visual word recognition system is, perhaps counterintuitively, more rapidly sensitive to minor than to flagrant deviations from contextually-predicted inputs. The findings are consistent with rapid interactions between lexical and sub-lexical representations during word recognition, in which rapid lexical access of a contextually-supported word (CAKE) provides top-down excitation of form features (“cake”), highlighting the anomaly of an unexpected word “ceke”.
  • Kos, M., Van den Brink, D., Snijders, T. M., Rijpkema, M., Franke, B., Fernandez, G., Hagoort, P., & Whitehouse, A. (2012). CNTNAP2 and language processing in healthy individuals as measured with ERPs. PLoS One, 7(10), e46995. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0046995.

    Abstract

    The genetic FOXP2-CNTNAP2 pathway has been shown to be involved in the language capacity. We investigated whether a common variant of CNTNAP2 (rs7794745) is relevant for syntactic and semantic processing in the general population by using a visual sentence processing paradigm while recording ERPs in 49 healthy adults. While both AA homozygotes and T-carriers showed a standard N400 effect to semantic anomalies, the response to subject-verb agreement violations differed across genotype groups. T-carriers displayed an anterior negativity preceding the P600 effect, whereas for the AA group only a P600 effect was observed. These results provide another piece of evidence that the neuronal architecture of the human faculty of language is shaped differently by effects that are genetically determined.
  • Kos, M., Van den Brink, D., & Hagoort, P. (2012). Individual variation in the late positive complex to semantic anomalies. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 318. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00318.

    Abstract

    It is well-known that, within ERP paradigms of sentence processing, semantically anomalous words elicit N400 effects. Less clear, however, is what happens after the N400. In some cases N400 effects are followed by Late Positive Complexes (LPC), whereas in other cases such effects are lacking. We investigated several factors which could affect the LPC, such as contextual constraint, inter-individual variation and working memory. Seventy-two participants read sentences containing a semantic manipulation (Whipped cream tastes sweet/anxious and creamy). Neither contextual constraint nor working memory correlated with the LPC. Inter-individual variation played a substantial role in the elicitation of the LPC with about half of the participants showing a negative response and the other half showing an LPC. This individual variation correlated with a syntactic ERP as well as an alternative semantic manipulation. In conclusion, our results show that inter-individual variation plays a large role in the elicitation of the LPC and this may account for the diversity in LPC findings in language research.
  • Lai, V. T., Hagoort, P., & Casasanto, D. (2012). Affective primacy vs. cognitive primacy: Dissolving the debate. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 243. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00243.

    Abstract

    When people see a snake, they are likely to activate both affective information (e.g., dangerous) and non-affective information about its ontological category (e.g., animal). According to the Affective Primacy Hypothesis, the affective information has priority, and its activation can precede identification of the ontological category of a stimulus. Alternatively, according to the Cognitive Primacy Hypothesis, perceivers must know what they are looking at before they can make an affective judgment about it. We propose that neither hypothesis holds at all times. Here we show that the relative speed with which affective and non-affective information gets activated by pictures and words depends upon the contexts in which stimuli are processed. Results illustrate that the question of whether affective information has processing priority over ontological information (or vice versa) is ill posed. Rather than seeking to resolve the debate over Cognitive vs. Affective Primacy in favor of one hypothesis or the other, a more productive goal may be to determine the factors that cause affective information to have processing priority in some circumstances and ontological information in others. Our findings support a view of the mind according to which words and pictures activate different neurocognitive representations every time they are processed, the specifics of which are co-determined by the stimuli themselves and the contexts in which they occur.
  • Lehtonen, M., Hulten, A., Rodríguez-Fornells, A., Cunillera, T., Tuomainen, J., & Laine, M. (2012). Differences in word recognition between early bilinguals and monolinguals: Behavioral and ERP evidence. Neuropsychologia, 50, 1362-1371. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2012.02.021.

    Abstract

    We investigated the behavioral and brain responses (ERPs) of bilingual word recognition to three fundamental psycholinguistic factors, frequency, morphology, and lexicality, in early bilinguals vs. monolinguals. Earlier behavioral studies have reported larger frequency effects in bilingualś nondominant vs. dominant language and in some studies also when compared to corresponding monolinguals. In ERPs, language processing differences between bilinguals vs. monolinguals have typically been found in the N400 component. In the present study, highly proficient Finnish-Swedish bilinguals who had acquired both languages during childhood were compared to Finnish monolinguals during a visual lexical decision task and simultaneous ERP recordings. Behaviorally, we found that the response latencies were overall longer in bilinguals than monolinguals, and that the effects for all three factors, frequency, morphology, and lexicality were also larger in bilinguals even though they had acquired both languages early and were highly proficient in them. In line with this, the N400 effects induced by frequency, morphology, and lexicality were larger for bilinguals than monolinguals. Furthermore, the ERP results also suggest that while most inflected Finnish words are decomposed into stem and suffix, only monolinguals have encountered high frequency inflected word forms often enough to develop full-form representations for them. Larger behavioral and neural effects in bilinguals in these factors likely reflect lower amount of exposure to words compared to monolinguals, as the language input of bilinguals is divided between two languages.
  • Mellem, M. S., Bastiaansen, M. C. M., Pilgrim, L. K., Medvedev, A. V., & Friedman, R. B. (2012). Word class and context affect alpha-band oscillatory dynamics in an older population. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 97. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00097.

    Abstract

    Differences in the oscillatory EEG dynamics of reading open class (OC) and closed class (CC) words have previously been found (Bastiaansen et al., 2005) and are thought to reflect differences in lexical-semantic content between these word classes. In particular, the theta-band (4–7 Hz) seems to play a prominent role in lexical-semantic retrieval. We tested whether this theta effect is robust in an older population of subjects. Additionally, we examined how the context of a word can modulate the oscillatory dynamics underlying retrieval for the two different classes of words. Older participants (mean age 55) read words presented in either syntactically correct sentences or in a scrambled order (“scrambled sentence”) while their EEG was recorded. We performed time–frequency analysis to examine how power varied based on the context or class of the word. We observed larger power decreases in the alpha (8–12 Hz) band between 200–700 ms for the OC compared to CC words, but this was true only for the scrambled sentence context. We did not observe differences in theta power between these conditions. Context exerted an effect on the alpha and low beta (13–18 Hz) bands between 0 and 700 ms. These results suggest that the previously observed word class effects on theta power changes in a younger participant sample do not seem to be a robust effect in this older population. Though this is an indirect comparison between studies, it may suggest the existence of aging effects on word retrieval dynamics for different populations. Additionally, the interaction between word class and context suggests that word retrieval mechanisms interact with sentence-level comprehension mechanisms in the alpha-band.
  • Menenti, L., Petersson, K. M., & Hagoort, P. (2012). From reference to sense: How the brain encodes meaning for speaking. Frontiers in Psychology, 2, 384. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00384.

    Abstract

    In speaking, semantic encoding is the conversion of a non-verbal mental representation (the reference) into a semantic structure suitable for expression (the sense). In this fMRI study on sentence production we investigate how the speaking brain accomplishes this transition from non-verbal to verbal representations. In an overt picture description task, we manipulated repetition of sense (the semantic structure of the sentence) and reference (the described situation) separately. By investigating brain areas showing response adaptation to repetition of each of these sentence properties, we disentangle the neuronal infrastructure for these two components of semantic encoding. We also performed a control experiment with the same stimuli and design but without any linguistic task to identify areas involved in perception of the stimuli per se. The bilateral inferior parietal lobes were selectively sensitive to repetition of reference, while left inferior frontal gyrus showed selective suppression to repetition of sense. Strikingly, a widespread network of areas associated with language processing (left middle frontal gyrus, bilateral superior parietal lobes and bilateral posterior temporal gyri) all showed repetition suppression to both sense and reference processing. These areas are probably involved in mapping reference onto sense, the crucial step in semantic encoding. These results enable us to track the transition from non-verbal to verbal representations in our brains.
  • Menenti, L., Pickering, M. J., & Garrod, S. C. (2012). Towards a neural basis of interactive alignment in conversation. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 6, 185. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2012.00185.

    Abstract

    The interactive-alignment account of dialogue proposes that interlocutors achieve conversational success by aligning their understanding of the situation under discussion. Such alignment occurs because they prime each other at different levels of representation (e.g., phonology, syntax, semantics), and this is possible because these representations are shared across production and comprehension. In this paper, we briefly review the behavioral evidence, and then consider how findings from cognitive neuroscience might lend support to this account, on the assumption that alignment of neural activity corresponds to alignment of mental states. We first review work supporting representational parity between production and comprehension, and suggest that neural activity associated with phonological, lexical, and syntactic aspects of production and comprehension are closely related. We next consider evidence for the neural bases of the activation and use of situation models during production and comprehension, and how these demonstrate the activation of non-linguistic conceptual representations associated with language use. We then review evidence for alignment of neural mechanisms that are specific to the act of communication. Finally, we suggest some avenues of further research that need to be explored to test crucial predictions of the interactive alignment account.
  • Menenti, L., Segaert, K., & Hagoort, P. (2012). The neuronal infrastructure of speaking. Brain and Language, 122, 71-80. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2012.04.012.

    Abstract

    Models of speaking distinguish producing meaning, words and syntax as three different linguistic components of speaking. Nevertheless, little is known about the brain’s integrated neuronal infrastructure for speech production. We investigated semantic, lexical and syntactic aspects of speaking using fMRI. In a picture description task, we manipulated repetition of sentence meaning, words, and syntax separately. By investigating brain areas showing response adaptation to repetition of each of these sentence properties, we disentangle the neuronal infrastructure for these processes. We demonstrate that semantic, lexical and syntactic processes are carried out in partly overlapping and partly distinct brain networks and show that the classic left-hemispheric dominance for language is present for syntax but not semantics.
  • Ozyurek, A. (2012). Gesture. In R. Pfau, M. Steinbach, & B. Woll (Eds.), Sign language: An international handbook (pp. 626-646). Berlin: Mouton.

    Abstract

    Gestures are meaningful movements of the body, the hands, and the face during communication, which accompany the production of both spoken and signed utterances. Recent research has shown that gestures are an integral part of language and that they contribute semantic, syntactic, and pragmatic information to the linguistic utterance. Furthermore, they reveal internal representations of the language user during communication in ways that might not be encoded in the verbal part of the utterance. Firstly, this chapter summarizes research on the role of gesture in spoken languages. Subsequently, it gives an overview of how gestural components might manifest themselves in sign languages, that is, in a situation in which both gesture and sign are expressed by the same articulators. Current studies are discussed that address the question of whether gestural components are the same or different in the two language modalities from a semiotic as well as from a cognitive and processing viewpoint. Understanding the role of gesture in both sign and spoken language contributes to our knowledge of the human language faculty as a multimodal communication system.
  • Peeters, D., Vanlangendonck, F., & Willems, R. M. (2012). Bestaat er een talenknobbel? Over taal in ons brein. In M. Boogaard, & M. Jansen (Eds.), Alles wat je altijd al had willen weten over taal: De taalcanon (pp. 41-43). Amsterdam: Meulenhoff.

    Abstract

    Wanneer iemand goed is in het spreken van meerdere talen, wordt wel gezegd dat zo iemand een talenknobbel heeft. Iedereen weet dat dat niet letterlijk bedoeld is: iemand met een talenknobbel herkennen we niet aan een grote bult op zijn hoofd. Toch dacht men vroeger wel degelijk dat mensen een letterlijke talenknobbel konden ontwikkelen. Een goed ontwikkeld taalvermogen zou gepaard gaan met het groeien van het hersengebied dat hiervoor verantwoordelijk was. Dit deel van het brein zou zelfs zo groot kunnen worden dat het van binnenuit tegen de schedel drukte, met name rond de ogen. Nu weten we wel beter. Maar waar in het brein bevindt de taal zich dan wel precies?
  • Petersson, K. M., Folia, V., & Hagoort, P. (2012). What artificial grammar learning reveals about the neurobiology of syntax. Brain and Language, 120, 83-95. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2010.08.003.

    Abstract

    In this paper we examine the neurobiological correlates of syntax, the processing of structured sequences, by comparing FMRI results on artificial and natural language syntax. We discuss these and similar findings in the context of formal language and computability theory. We used a simple right-linear unification grammar in an implicit artificial grammar learning paradigm in 32 healthy Dutch university students (natural language FMRI data were already acquired for these participants). We predicted that artificial syntax processing would engage the left inferior frontal region (BA 44/45) and that this activation would overlap with syntax-related variability observed in the natural language experiment. The main findings of this study show that the left inferior frontal region centered on BA 44/45 is active during artificial syntax processing of well-formed (grammatical) sequence independent of local subsequence familiarity. The same region is engaged to a greater extent when a syntactic violation is present and structural unification becomes difficult or impossible. The effects related to artificial syntax in the left inferior frontal region (BA 44/45) were essentially identical when we masked these with activity related to natural syntax in the same subjects. Finally, the medial temporal lobe was deactivated during this operation, consistent with the view that implicit processing does not rely on declarative memory mechanisms that engage the medial temporal lobe. In the context of recent FMRI findings, we raise the question whether Broca’s region (or subregions) is specifically related to syntactic movement operations or the processing of hierarchically nested non-adjacent dependencies in the discussion section. We conclude that this is not the case. Instead, we argue that the left inferior frontal region is a generic on-line sequence processor that unifies information from various sources in an incremental and recursive manner, independent of whether there are any processing requirements related to syntactic movement or hierarchically nested structures. In addition, we argue that the Chomsky hierarchy is not directly relevant for neurobiological systems.
  • Petersson, K. M., & Hagoort, P. (2012). The neurobiology of syntax: Beyond string-sets [Review article]. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, 367, 1971-1883. doi:10.1098/rstb.2012.0101.

    Abstract

    The human capacity to acquire language is an outstanding scientific challenge to understand. Somehow our language capacities arise from the way the human brain processes, develops and learns in interaction with its environment. To set the stage, we begin with a summary of what is known about the neural organization of language and what our artificial grammar learning (AGL) studies have revealed. We then review the Chomsky hierarchy in the context of the theory of computation and formal learning theory. Finally, we outline a neurobiological model of language acquisition and processing based on an adaptive, recurrent, spiking network architecture. This architecture implements an asynchronous, event-driven, parallel system for recursive processing. We conclude that the brain represents grammars (or more precisely, the parser/generator) in its connectivity, and its ability for syntax is based on neurobiological infrastructure for structured sequence processing. The acquisition of this ability is accounted for in an adaptive dynamical systems framework. Artificial language learning (ALL) paradigms might be used to study the acquisition process within such a framework, as well as the processing properties of the underlying neurobiological infrastructure. However, it is necessary to combine and constrain the interpretation of ALL results by theoretical models and empirical studies on natural language processing. Given that the faculty of language is captured by classical computational models to a significant extent, and that these can be embedded in dynamic network architectures, there is hope that significant progress can be made in understanding the neurobiology of the language faculty.
  • Poletiek, F. H., & Lai, J. (2012). How semantic biases in simple adjacencies affect learning a complex structure with non-adjacencies in AGL: A statistical account. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, 367, 2046 -2054. doi:10.1098/rstb.2012.0100.

    Abstract

    A major theoretical debate in language acquisition research regards the learnability of hierarchical structures. The artificial grammar learning methodology is increasingly influential in approaching this question. Studies using an artificial centre-embedded AnBn grammar without semantics draw conflicting conclusions. This study investigates the facilitating effect of distributional biases in simple AB adjacencies in the input sample—caused in natural languages, among others, by semantic biases—on learning a centre-embedded structure. A mathematical simulation of the linguistic input and the learning, comparing various distributional biases in AB pairs, suggests that strong distributional biases might help us to grasp the complex AnBn hierarchical structure in a later stage. This theoretical investigation might contribute to our understanding of how distributional features of the input—including those caused by semantic variation—help learning complex structures in natural languages.
  • Rowbotham, S., Holler, J., Lloyd, D., & Wearden, A. (2012). How do we communicate about pain? A systematic analysis of the semantic contribution of co-speech gestures in pain-focused conversations. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 36, 1-21. doi:10.1007/s10919-011-0122-5.

    Abstract

    The purpose of the present study was to investigate co-speech gesture use during communication about pain. Speakers described a recent pain experience and the data were analyzed using a ‘semantic feature approach’ to determine the distribution of information across gesture and speech. This analysis revealed that a considerable proportion of pain-focused talk was accompanied by gestures, and that these gestures often contained more information about pain than speech itself. Further, some gestures represented information that was hardly represented in speech at all. Overall, these results suggest that gestures are integral to the communication of pain and need to be attended to if recipients are to obtain a fuller understanding of the pain experience and provide help and support to pain sufferers.
  • De Ruiter, J. P., Noordzij, M. L., Newman-Norlund, S., Newman-Norlund, R., Hagoort, P., Levinson, S. C., & Toni, I. (2012). Exploring the cognitive infrastructure of communication. In B. Galantucci, & S. Garrod (Eds.), Experimental Semiotics: Studies on the emergence and evolution of human communication (pp. 51-78). Amsterdam: Benjamins.

    Abstract

    Human communication is often thought about in terms of transmitted messages in a conventional code like a language. But communication requires a specialized interactive intelligence. Senders have to be able to perform recipient design, while receivers need to be able to do intention recognition, knowing that recipient design has taken place. To study this interactive intelligence in the lab, we developed a new task that taps directly into the underlying abilities to communicate in the absence of a conventional code. We show that subjects are remarkably successful communicators under these conditions, especially when senders get feedback from receivers. Signaling is accomplished by the manner in which an instrumental action is performed, such that instrumentally dysfunctional components of an action are used to convey communicative intentions. The findings have important implications for the nature of the human communicative infrastructure, and the task opens up a line of experimentation on human communication.

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  • Scheeringa, R., Petersson, K. M., Kleinschmidt, A., Jensen, O., & Bastiaansen, M. C. M. (2012). EEG alpha power modulation of fMRI resting state connectivity. Brain Connectivity, 2, 254-264. doi:10.1089/brain.2012.0088.

    Abstract

    In the past decade, the fast and transient coupling and uncoupling of functionally related brain regions into networks has received much attention in cognitive neuroscience. Empirical tools to study network coupling include fMRI-based functional and/or effective connectivity, and EEG/MEG-based measures of neuronal synchronization. Here we use simultaneously recorded EEG and fMRI to assess whether fMRI-based BOLD connectivity and frequency-specific EEG power are related. Using data collected during resting state, we studied whether posterior EEG alpha power fluctuations are correlated with connectivity within the visual network and between visual cortex and the rest of the brain. The results show that when alpha power increases BOLD connectivity between primary visual cortex and occipital brain regions decreases and that the negative relation of the visual cortex with anterior/medial thalamus decreases and ventral-medial prefrontal cortex is reduced in strength. These effects were specific for the alpha band, and not observed in other frequency bands. Decreased connectivity within the visual system may indicate enhanced functional inhibition during higher alpha activity. This higher inhibition level also attenuates long-range intrinsic functional antagonism between visual cortex and other thalamic and cortical regions. Together, these results illustrate that power fluctuations in posterior alpha oscillations result in local and long range neural connectivity changes.
  • Schmale, R., Cristia, A., & Seidl, A. (2012). Toddlers recognize words in an unfamiliar accent after brief exposure. Developmental Science, 15, 732-738. doi:10.1111/j.1467-7687.2012.01175.x.

    Abstract

    Both subjective impressions and previous research with monolingual listeners suggest that a foreign accent interferes with word recognition in infants, young children, and adults. However, because being exposed to multiple accents is likely to be an everyday occurrence in many societies, it is unexpected that such non-standard pronunciations would significantly impede language processing once the listener has experience with the relevant accent. Indeed, we report that 24-month-olds successfully accommodate an unfamiliar accent in rapid word learning after less than 2 minutes of accent exposure. These results underline the robustness of our speech perception mechanisms, which allow listeners to adapt even in the absence of extensive lexical knowledge and clear known-word referents.
  • Segaert, K. (2012). Structuring language: Contributions to the neurocognition of syntax. PhD Thesis, Radboud University, Nijmegen, the Netherlands.

    Abstract

    Sprekers hebben een sterke neiging om syntactische structuren te hergebruiken in nieuwe zinnen. Wanneer we een situatie beschrijven met een passieve zin bijvoorbeeld: 'De vrouw wordt begroet door de man', zullen we voor de beschrijving van een nieuwe situatie gemakkelijker opnieuw een passieve zin gebruiken. Vooral bij moeilijke syntactische structuren is de neiging om ze te hergebruiken erg sterk. Voor gemakkelijke zinsconstructies geldt dat minder. Maar als deze toch hergebruikt worden dan gaat dit samen met een sneller initiëren van de beschrijving. Ook in het brein zien we dat het herhalen van syntactische structuren de verwerking ervan vergemakkelijkt. Bepaalde hersengebieden die zorgen voor de verwerking van syntactische structuren zijn zeer actief de eerste keer dat een syntactische structuur wordt verwerkt, en minder actief de tweede keer. Het gaat hier om een gebiedje in de frontaalkwab en een gebiedje in de temporaalkwab. Opvallend is ook dat deze gebieden de verwerking van syntactische structuren ondersteunen zowel tijdens het spreken als tijdens het luisteren.
  • Segaert, K., Menenti, L., Weber, K., Petersson, K. M., & Hagoort, P. (2012). Shared syntax in language production and language comprehension — An fMRI study. Cerebral Cortex, 22, 1662-1670. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhr249.

    Abstract

    During speaking and listening syntactic processing is a crucial step. It involves specifying syntactic relations between words in a sentence. If the production and comprehension modality share the neuronal substrate for syntactic processing then processing syntax in one modality should lead to adaptation effects in the other modality. In the present functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment, participants either overtly produced or heard descriptions of pictures. We looked for brain regions showing adaptation effects to the repetition of syntactic structures. In order to ensure that not just the same brain regions but also the same neuronal populations within these regions are involved in syntactic processing in speaking and listening, we compared syntactic adaptation effects within processing modalities (syntactic production-to-production and comprehension-to-comprehension priming) with syntactic adaptation effects between processing modalities (syntactic comprehension-to-production and production-to-comprehension priming). We found syntactic adaptation effects in left inferior frontal gyrus (Brodmann's area [BA] 45), left middle temporal gyrus (BA 21), and bilateral supplementary motor area (BA 6) which were equally strong within and between processing modalities. Thus, syntactic repetition facilitates syntactic processing in the brain within and across processing modalities to the same extent. We conclude that that the same neurobiological system seems to subserve syntactic processing in speaking and listening.
  • Seidl, A., & Cristia, A. (2012). Infants' learning of phonological status. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 448. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00448.

    Abstract

    There is a substantial literature describing how infants become more sensitive to differences between native phonemes (sounds that are both present and meaningful in the input) and less sensitive to differences between non-native phonemes (sounds that are neither present nor meaningful in the input) over the course of development. Here, we review an emergent strand of literature that gives a more nuanced notion of the problem of sound category learning. This research documents infants’ discovery of phonological status, signaled by a decrease in sensitivity to sounds that map onto the same phonemic category vs. different phonemic categories. The former phones are present in the input, but their difference does not cue meaning distinctions because they are tied to one and the same phoneme. For example, the diphthong I in I’m should map to the same underlying category as the diphthong in I’d, despite the fact that the first vowel is nasal and the second oral. Because such pairs of sounds are processed differently than those than map onto different phonemes by adult speakers, the learner has to come to treat them differently as well. Interestingly, there is some evidence that infants’ sensitivity to dimensions that are allophonic in the ambient language declines as early as 11 months. We lay out behavioral research, corpora analyses, and computational work which sheds light on how infants achieve this feat at such a young age. Collectively, this work suggests that the computation of complementary distribution and the calculation of phonetic similarity operate in concert to guide infants toward a functional interpretation of sounds that are present in the input, yet not lexically contrastive. In addition to reviewing this literature, we discuss broader implications for other fundamental theoretical and empirical questions.
  • Silva, C., Faísca, L., Ingvar, M., Petersson, K. M., & Reis, A. (2012). Literacy: Exploring working memory systems. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 34(4), 369-377. doi:10.1080/13803395.2011.645017.

    Abstract

    Previous research showed an important association between reading and writing skills (literacy) and the phonological loop. However, the effects of literacy on other working memory components remain unclear. In this study, we investigated performance of illiterate subjects and their matched literate controls on verbal and nonverbal working memory tasks. Results revealed that the phonological loop is significantly influenced by literacy, while the visuospatial sketchpad appears to be less affected or not at all. Results also suggest that the central executive might be influenced by literacy, possibly as an expression of cognitive reserve.

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  • Stein, J. L., Medland, S. E., Vasquez, A. A., Hibar, D. P., Senstad, R. E., Winkler, A. M., Toro, R., Appel, K., Bartecek, R., Bergmann, Ø., Bernard, M., Brown, A. A., Cannon, D. M., Chakravarty, M. M., Christoforou, A., Domin, M., Grimm, O., Hollinshead, M., Holmes, A. J., Homuth, G. and 184 moreStein, J. L., Medland, S. E., Vasquez, A. A., Hibar, D. P., Senstad, R. E., Winkler, A. M., Toro, R., Appel, K., Bartecek, R., Bergmann, Ø., Bernard, M., Brown, A. A., Cannon, D. M., Chakravarty, M. M., Christoforou, A., Domin, M., Grimm, O., Hollinshead, M., Holmes, A. J., Homuth, G., Hottenga, J.-J., Langan, C., Lopez, L. M., Hansell, N. K., Hwang, K. S., Kim, S., Laje, G., Lee, P. H., Liu, X., Loth, E., Lourdusamy, A., Mattingsdal, M., Mohnke, S., Maniega, S. M., Nho, K., Nugent, A. C., O'Brien, C., Papmeyer, M., Pütz, B., Ramasamy, A., Rasmussen, J., Rijpkema, M., Risacher, S. L., Roddey, J. C., Rose, E. J., Ryten, M., Shen, L., Sprooten, E., Strengman, E., Teumer, A., Trabzuni, D., Turner, J., van Eijk, K., van Erp, T. G. M., van Tol, M.-J., Wittfeld, K., Wolf, C., Woudstra, S., Aleman, A., Alhusaini, S., Almasy, L., Binder, E. B., Brohawn, D. G., Cantor, R. M., Carless, M. A., Corvin, A., Czisch, M., Curran, J. E., Davies, G., de Almeida, M. A. A., Delanty, N., Depondt, C., Duggirala, R., Dyer, T. D., Erk, S., Fagerness, J., Fox, P. T., Freimer, N. B., Gill, M., Göring, H. H. H., Hagler, D. J., Hoehn, D., Holsboer, F., Hoogman, M., Hosten, N., Jahanshad, N., Johnson, M. P., Kasperaviciute, D., Kent, J. W. J., Kochunov, P., Lancaster, J. L., Lawrie, S. M., Liewald, D. C., Mandl, R., Matarin, M., Mattheisen, M., Meisenzahl, E., Melle, I., Moses, E. K., Mühleisen, T. W., Nauck, M., Nöthen, M. M., Olvera, R. L., Pandolfo, M., Pike, G. B., Puls, R., Reinvang, I., Rentería, M. E., Rietschel, M., Roffman, J. L., Royle, N. A., Rujescu, D., Savitz, J., Schnack, H. G., Schnell, K., Seiferth, N., Smith, C., Hernández, M. C. V., Steen, V. M., den Heuvel, M. V., van der Wee, N. J., Haren, N. E. M. V., Veltman, J. A., Völzke, H., Walker, R., Westlye, L. T., Whelan, C. D., Agartz, I., Boomsma, D. I., Cavalleri, G. L., Dale, A. M., Djurovic, S., Drevets, W. C., Hagoort, P., Hall, J., Heinz, A., Clifford, R. J., Foroud, T. M., Le Hellard, S., Macciardi, F., Montgomery, G. W., Poline, J. B., Porteous, D. J., Sisodiya, S. M., Starr, J. M., Sussmann, J., Toga, A. W., Veltman, D. J., Walter, H., Weiner, M. W., EPIGEN Consortium, IMAGENConsortium, Saguenay Youth Study Group, Bis, J. C., Ikram, M. A., Smith, A. V., Gudnason, V., Tzourio, C., Vernooij, M. W., Launer, L. J., DeCarli, C., Seshadri, S., Heart, C. f., Consortium, A. R. i. G. E. (., Andreassen, O. A., Apostolova, L. G., Bastin, M. E., Blangero, J., Brunner, H. G., Buckner, R. L., Cichon, S., Coppola, G., de Zubicaray, G. I., Deary, I. J., Donohoe, G., de Geus, E. J. C., Espeseth, T., Fernández, G., Glahn, D. C., Grabe, H. J., Hardy, J., Hulshoff Pol, H. E., Jenkinson, M., Kahn, R. S., McDonald, C., McIntosh, A. M., McMahon, F. J., McMahon, K. L., Meyer-Lindenberg, A., Morris, D. W., Müller-Myhsok, B., Nichols, T. E., Ophoff, R. A., Paus, T., Pausova, Z., Penninx, B. W., Sämann, P. G., Saykin, A. J., Schumann, G., Smoller, J. W., Wardlaw, J. M., Weale, M. E., Martin, N. G., Franke, B., Wright, M. J., Thompson, P. M., & the Enhancing Neuro Imaging Genetics through Meta-Analysis (ENIGMA) Consortium (2012). Identification of common variants associated with human hippocampal and intracranial volumes. Nature Genetics, 44, 552-561. doi:10.1038/ng.2250.

    Abstract

    Identifying genetic variants influencing human brain structures may reveal new biological mechanisms underlying cognition and neuropsychiatric illness. The volume of the hippocampus is a biomarker of incipient Alzheimer's disease and is reduced in schizophrenia, major depression and mesial temporal lobe epilepsy. Whereas many brain imaging phenotypes are highly heritable, identifying and replicating genetic influences has been difficult, as small effects and the high costs of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) have led to underpowered studies. Here we report genome-wide association meta-analyses and replication for mean bilateral hippocampal, total brain and intracranial volumes from a large multinational consortium. The intergenic variant rs7294919 was associated with hippocampal volume (12q24.22; N = 21,151; P = 6.70 × 10(-16)) and the expression levels of the positional candidate gene TESC in brain tissue. Additionally, rs10784502, located within HMGA2, was associated with intracranial volume (12q14.3; N = 15,782; P = 1.12 × 10(-12)). We also identified a suggestive association with total brain volume at rs10494373 within DDR2 (1q23.3; N = 6,500; P = 5.81 × 10(-7)).
  • Sumer, B., Zwitserlood, I., Perniss, P. M., & Ozyurek, A. (2012). Development of locative expressions by Turkish deaf and hearing children: Are there modality effects? In A. K. Biller, E. Y. Chung, & A. E. Kimball (Eds.), Proceedings of the 36th Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development (BUCLD 36) (pp. 568-580). Boston: Cascadilla Press.
  • Udden, J., & Bahlmann, J. (2012). A rostro-caudal gradient of structured sequence processing in the left inferior frontal gyrus [Review article]. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, 367, 2023-2032. doi:10.1098/rstb.2012.0009.

    Abstract

    In this paper, we present two novel perspectives on the function of the left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG). First, a structured sequence processing perspective facilitates the search for functional segregation within the LIFG and provides a way to express common aspects across cognitive domains including language, music and action. Converging evidence from functional magnetic resonance imaging and transcranial magnetic stimulation studies suggests that the LIFG is engaged in sequential processing in artificial grammar learning, independently of particular stimulus features of the elements (whether letters, syllables or shapes are used to build up sequences). The LIFG has been repeatedly linked to processing of artificial grammars across all different grammars tested, whether they include non-adjacent dependencies or mere adjacent dependencies. Second, we apply the sequence processing perspective to understand how the functional segregation of semantics, syntax and phonology in the LIFG can be integrated in the general organization of the lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC). Recently, it was proposed that the functional organization of the lateral PFC follows a rostro-caudal gradient, such that more abstract processing in cognitive control is subserved by more rostral regions of the lateral PFC. We explore the literature from the viewpoint that functional segregation within the LIFG can be embedded in a general rostro-caudal abstraction gradient in the lateral PFC. If the lateral PFC follows a rostro-caudal abstraction gradient, then this predicts that the LIFG follows the same principles, but this prediction has not yet been tested or explored in the LIFG literature. Integration might provide further insights into the functional architecture of the LIFG and the lateral PFC.
  • Udden, J. (2012). Language as structured sequences: a causal role of Broca's region in sequence processing. PhD Thesis, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm.

    Abstract

    In this thesis I approach language as a neurobiological system. I defend a sequence processing perspective on language and on the function of Broca's region in the left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG). This perspective provides a way to express common structural aspects of language, music and action, which all engage the LIFG. It also facilitates the comparison of human language and structured sequence processing in animals. Research on infants, song-birds and non-human primates suggests an interesting role for non-adjacent dependencies in language acquisition and the evolution of language. In a series of experimental studies using a sequence processing paradigm called artificial grammar learning (AGL), we have investigated sequences with adjacent and non-adjacent dependencies. Our behavioral and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) studies show that healthy subjects successfully discriminate between grammatical and non-grammatical sequences after having acquired aspects of a grammar with nested or crossed non-adjacent dependencies implicitly. There were no indications of separate acquisition/processing mechanisms for sequence processing of adjacent and non-adjacent dependencies, although acquisition of non-adjacent dependencies takes more time. In addition, we studied the causal role of Broca‟s region in processing artificial syntax. Although syntactic processing has already been robustly correlated with activity in Broca's region, the causal role of Broca's region in syntactic processing, in particular syntactic comprehension has been unclear. Previous lesion studies have shown that a lesion in Broca's region is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition to induce e.g. syntactic deficits. Subsequent to transcranial magnetic stimulation of Broca‟s region, discrimination of grammatical sequences with non-adjacent dependencies from non-grammatical sequences was impaired, compared to when a language irrelevant control region (vertex) was stimulated. Two additional experiments show perturbation of discrimination performance for grammars with adjacent dependencies after stimulation of Broca's region. Together, these results support the view that Broca‟s region plays a causal role in implicit structured sequence processing.
  • Udden, J., Ingvar, M., Hagoort, P., & Petersson, K. M. (2012). Implicit acquisition of grammars with crossed and nested non-adjacent dependencies: Investigating the push-down stack model. Cognitive Science, 36, 1078-1101. doi:10.1111/j.1551-6709.2012.01235.x.

    Abstract

    A recent hypothesis in empirical brain research on language is that the fundamental difference between animal and human communication systems is captured by the distinction between finite-state and more complex phrase-structure grammars, such as context-free and context-sensitive grammars. However, the relevance of this distinction for the study of language as a neurobiological system has been questioned and it has been suggested that a more relevant and partly analogous distinction is that between non-adjacent and adjacent dependencies. Online memory resources are central to the processing of non-adjacent dependencies as information has to be maintained across intervening material. One proposal is that an external memory device in the form of a limited push-down stack is used to process non-adjacent dependencies. We tested this hypothesis in an artificial grammar learning paradigm where subjects acquired non-adjacent dependencies implicitly. Generally, we found no qualitative differences between the acquisition of non-adjacent dependencies and adjacent dependencies. This suggests that although the acquisition of non-adjacent dependencies requires more exposure to the acquisition material, it utilizes the same mechanisms used for acquiring adjacent dependencies. We challenge the push-down stack model further by testing its processing predictions for nested and crossed multiple non-adjacent dependencies. The push-down stack model is partly supported by the results, and we suggest that stack-like properties are some among many natural properties characterizing the underlying neurophysiological mechanisms that implement the online memory resources used in language and structured sequence processing.
  • Urrutia, M., de Vega, M., & Bastiaansen, M. C. M. (2012). Understanding counterfactuals in discourse modulates ERP and oscillatory gamma rhythms in the EEG. Brain Research, 1455, 40-55. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2012.03.032.

    Abstract

    This study provides ERP and oscillatory dynamics data associated with the comprehension of narratives involving counterfactual events. Participants were given short stories describing an initial situation (“Marta wanted to plant flowers in her garden…”), followed by a critical sentence describing a new situation in either a factual (“Since she found a spade, she started to dig a hole”) or counterfactual format (“If she had found a spade, she would have started to dig a hole”), and then a continuation sentence that was either related to the initial situation (“she bought a spade”) or to the new one (“she planted roses”). The ERPs recorded for the continuation sentences related to the initial situation showed larger negativity after factuals than after counterfactuals, suggesting that the counterfactual's presupposition – the events did not occur – prevents updating the here-and-now of discourse. By contrast, continuation sentences related to the new situation elicited similar ERPs under both factual and counterfactual contexts, suggesting that counterfactuals also activate momentarily an alternative “as if” meaning. However, the reduction of gamma power following counterfactuals, suggests that the “as if” meaning is not integrated into the discourse, nor does it contribute to semantic unification processes.
  • Van Ackeren, M. J., Casasanto, D., Bekkering, H., Hagoort, P., & Rueschemeyer, S.-A. (2012). Pragmatics in action: Indirect requests engage theory of mind areas and the cortical motor network. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 24, 2237-2247. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_00274.

    Abstract

    Research from the past decade has shown that understanding the meaning of words and utterances (i.e., abstracted symbols) engages the same systems we used to perceive and interact with the physical world in a content-specific manner. For example, understanding the word “grasp” elicits activation in the cortical motor network, that is, part of the neural substrate involved in planned and executing a grasping action. In the embodied literature, cortical motor activation during language comprehension is thought to reflect motor simulation underlying conceptual knowledge [note that outside the embodied framework, other explanations for the link between action and language are offered, e.g., Mahon, B. Z., & Caramazza, A. A critical look at the embodied cognition hypothesis and a new proposal for grouding conceptual content. Journal of Physiology, 102, 59–70, 2008; Hagoort, P. On Broca, brain, and binding: A new framework. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 9, 416–423, 2005]. Previous research has supported the view that the coupling between language and action is flexible, and reading an action-related word form is not sufficient for cortical motor activation [Van Dam, W. O., van Dijk, M., Bekkering, H., & Rueschemeyer, S.-A. Flexibility in embodied lexical–semantic representations. Human Brain Mapping, doi: 10.1002/hbm.21365, 2011]. The current study goes one step further by addressing the necessity of action-related word forms for motor activation during language comprehension. Subjects listened to indirect requests (IRs) for action during an fMRI session. IRs for action are speech acts in which access to an action concept is required, although it is not explicitly encoded in the language. For example, the utterance “It is hot here!” in a room with a window is likely to be interpreted as a request to open the window. However, the same utterance in a desert will be interpreted as a statement. The results indicate (1) that comprehension of IR sentences activates cortical motor areas reliably more than comprehension of sentences devoid of any implicit motor information. This is true despite the fact that IR sentences contain no lexical reference to action. (2) Comprehension of IR sentences also reliably activates substantial portions of the theory of mind network, known to be involved in making inferences about mental states of others. The implications of these findings for embodied theories of language are discussed.
  • Van den Brink, D., Van Berkum, J. J. A., Bastiaansen, M. C. M., Tesink, C. M. J. Y., Kos, M., Buitelaar, J. K., & Hagoort, P. (2012). Empathy matters: ERP evidence for inter-individual differences in social language processing. Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 7, 173-182. doi:10.1093/scan/nsq094.

    Abstract

    When an adult claims he cannot sleep without his teddy bear, people tend to react surprised. Language interpretation is, thus, influenced by social context, such as who the speaker is. The present study reveals inter-individual differences in brain reactivity to social aspects of language. Whereas women showed brain reactivity when stereotype-based inferences about a speaker conflicted with the content of the message, men did not. This sex difference in social information processing can be explained by a specific cognitive trait, one’s ability to empathize. Individuals who empathize to a greater degree revealed larger N400 effects (as well as a larger increase in γ-band power) to socially relevant information. These results indicate that individuals with high-empathizing skills are able to rapidly integrate information about the speaker with the content of the message, as they make use of voice-based inferences about the speaker to process language in a top-down manner. Alternatively, individuals with lower empathizing skills did not use information about social stereotypes in implicit sentence comprehension, but rather took a more bottom-up approach to the processing of these social pragmatic sentences.
  • Van Berkum, J. J. A. (2012). The electrophysiology of discourse and conversation. In M. J. Spivey, K. McRae, & M. F. Joanisse (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of psycholinguistics (pp. 589-614). New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Abstract

    Introduction: What’s happening in the brains of two people having a conversation? One reasonable guess is that in the fMRI scanner we’d see most of their brains light up. Another is that their EEG will be a total mess, reflecting dozens of interacting neuronal systems. Conversation recruits all of the basic language systems reviewed in this book. It also heavily taxes cognitive systems more likely to be found in handbooks of memory, attention and control, or social cognition (Brownell & Friedman, 2001). With most conversations going beyond the single utterance, for instance, they place a heavy load on episodic memory, as well as on the systems that allow us to reallocate cognitive resources to meet the demands of a dynamically changing situation. Furthermore, conversation is a deeply social and collaborative enterprise (Clark, 1996; this volume), in which interlocutors have to keep track of each others state of mind and coordinate on such things as taking turns, establishing common ground, and the goals of the conversation.
  • Van Alphen, P. M., & Van Berkum, J. J. A. (2012). Semantic involvement of initial and final lexical embeddings during sense-making: The advantage of starting late. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 190. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00190.

    Abstract

    During spoken language interpretation, listeners rapidly relate the meaning of each individual word to what has been said before. However, spoken words often contain spurious other words, like 'day' in 'daisy', or 'dean' in 'sardine'. Do listeners also relate the meaning of such unintended, spurious words to the prior context? We used ERPs to look for transient meaning-based N400 effects in sentences that were completely plausible at the level of words intended by the speaker, but contained an embedded word whose meaning clashed with the context. Although carrier words with an initial embedding ('day' in 'daisy') did not elicit an embedding-related N400 effect relative to matched control words without embedding, carrier words with a final embedding ('dean' in 'sardine') did elicit such an effect. Together with prior work from our lab and the results of a Shortlist B simulation, our findings suggest that listeners do semantically interpret embedded words, albeit not under all conditions. We explain the latter by assuming that the sense-making system adjusts its hypothesis for how to interpret the external input at every new syllable, in line with recent ideas of active sampling in perception.
  • De Vries, M. H., Petersson, K. M., Geukes, S., Zwitserlood, P., & Christiansen, M. H. (2012). Processing multiple non-adjacent dependencies: Evidence from sequence learning. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, 367, 2065-2076. doi:10.1098/rstb.2011.0414.

    Abstract

    Processing non-adjacent dependencies is considered to be one of the hallmarks of human language. Assuming that sequence-learning tasks provide a useful way to tap natural-language-processing mechanisms, we cross-modally combined serial reaction time and artificial-grammar learning paradigms to investigate the processing of multiple nested (A1A2A3B3B2B1) and crossed dependencies (A1A2A3B1B2B3), containing either three or two dependencies. Both reaction times and prediction errors highlighted problems with processing the middle dependency in nested structures (A1A2A3B3_B1), reminiscent of the ‘missing-verb effect’ observed in English and French, but not with crossed structures (A1A2A3B1_B3). Prior linguistic experience did not play a major role: native speakers of German and Dutch—which permit nested and crossed dependencies, respectively—showed a similar pattern of results for sequences with three dependencies. As for sequences with two dependencies, reaction times and prediction errors were similar for both nested and crossed dependencies. The results suggest that constraints on the processing of multiple non-adjacent dependencies are determined by the specific ordering of the non-adjacent dependencies (i.e. nested or crossed), as well as the number of non-adjacent dependencies to be resolved (i.e. two or three). Furthermore, these constraints may not be specific to language but instead derive from limitations on structured sequence learning.
  • Wagensveld, B., Segers, E., Van Alphen, P. M., Hagoort, P., & Verhoeven, L. (2012). A neurocognitive perspective on rhyme awareness: The N450 rhyme effect. Brain Research, 1483, 63-70. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2012.09.018.

    Abstract

    Rhyme processing is reflected in the electrophysiological signals of the brain as a negative deflection for non-rhyming as compared to rhyming stimuli around 450 ms after stimulus onset. Studies have shown that this N450 component is not solely sensitive to rhyme but also responds to other types of phonological overlap. In the present study, we examined whether the N450 component can be used to gain insight into the global similarity effect, indicating that rhyme judgment skills decrease when participants are presented with word pairs that share a phonological overlap but do not rhyme (e.g., bell–ball). We presented 20 adults with auditory rhyming, globally similar overlapping and unrelated word pairs. In addition to measuring behavioral responses by means of a yes/no button press, we also took EEG measures. The behavioral data showed a clear global similarity effect; participants judged overlapping pairs more slowly than unrelated pairs. However, the neural outcomes did not provide evidence that the N450 effect responds differentially to globally similar and unrelated word pairs, suggesting that globally similar and dissimilar non-rhyming pairs are processed in a similar fashion at the stage of early lexical access.
  • Wagensveld, B., Van Alphen, P. M., Segers, E., & Verhoeven, L. (2012). The nature of rhyme processing in preliterate children. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 82, 672-689. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8279.2011.02055.x.

    Abstract

    Background. Rhyme awareness is one of the earliest forms of phonological awareness to develop and is assessed in many developmental studies by means of a simple rhyme task. The influence of more demanding experimental paradigms on rhyme judgment performance is often neglected. Addressing this issue may also shed light on whether rhyme processing is more global or analytical in nature. Aims. The aim of the present study was to examine whether lexical status and global similarity relations influenced rhyme judgments in kindergarten children and if so, if there is an interaction between these two factors. Sample. Participants were 41 monolingual Dutch-speaking preliterate kindergartners (average age 6.0 years) who had not yet received any formal reading education. Method. To examine the effects of lexical status and phonological similarity processing, the kindergartners were asked to make rhyme judgements on (pseudo) word targets that rhymed, phonologically overlapped or were unrelated to (pseudo) word primes. Results. Both a lexicality effect (pseudo-words were more difficult than words) and a global similarity effect (globally similar non-rhyming items were more difficult to reject than unrelated items) were observed. In addition, whereas in words the global similarity effect was only present in accuracy outcomes, in pseudo-words it was also observed in the response latencies. Furthermore, a large global similarity effect in pseudo-words correlated with a low score on short-term memory skills and grapheme knowledge. Conclusions. Increasing task demands led to a more detailed assessment of rhyme processing skills. Current assessment paradigms should therefore be extended with more demanding conditions. In light of the views on rhyme processing, we propose that a combination of global and analytical strategies is used to make a correct rhyme judgment.
  • Wang, L., Jensen, O., Van den Brink, D., Weder, N., Schoffelen, J.-M., Magyari, L., Hagoort, P., & Bastiaansen, M. C. M. (2012). Beta oscillations relate to the N400m during language comprehension. Human Brain Mapping, 33, 2898-2912. doi:10.1002/hbm.21410.

    Abstract

    The relationship between the evoked responses (ERPs/ERFs) and the event-related changes in EEG/MEG power that can be observed during sentence-level language comprehension is as yet unclear. This study addresses a possible relationship between MEG power changes and the N400m component of the event-related field. Whole-head MEG was recorded while subjects listened to spoken sentences with incongruent (IC) or congruent (C) sentence endings. A clear N400m was observed over the left hemisphere, and was larger for the IC sentences than for the C sentences. A time–frequency analysis of power revealed a decrease in alpha and beta power over the left hemisphere in roughly the same time range as the N400m for the IC relative to the C condition. A linear regression analysis revealed a positive linear relationship between N400m and beta power for the IC condition, not for the C condition. No such linear relation was found between N400m and alpha power for either condition. The sources of the beta decrease were estimated in the LIFG, a region known to be involved in semantic unification operations. One source of the N400m was estimated in the left superior temporal region, which has been related to lexical retrieval. We interpret our data within a framework in which beta oscillations are inversely related to the engagement of task-relevant brain networks. The source reconstructions of the beta power suppression and the N400m effect support the notion of a dynamic communication between the LIFG and the left superior temporal region during language comprehension.
  • Wang, L., Bastiaansen, M. C. M., Yang, Y., & Hagoort, P. (2012). Information structure influences depth of syntactic processing: Event-related potential evidence for the Chomsky illusion. PLoS One, 7(10), e47917. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047917.

    Abstract

    Information structure facilitates communication between interlocutors by highlighting relevant information. It has previously been shown that information structure modulates the depth of semantic processing. Here we used event-related potentials to investigate whether information structure can modulate the depth of syntactic processing. In question-answer pairs, subtle (number agreement) or salient (phrase structure) syntactic violations were placed either in focus or out of focus through information structure marking. P600 effects to these violations reflect the depth of syntactic processing. For subtle violations, a P600 effect was observed in the focus condition, but not in the non-focus condition. For salient violations, comparable P600 effects were found in both conditions. These results indicate that information structure can modulate the depth of syntactic processing, but that this effect depends on the salience of the information. When subtle violations are not in focus, they are processed less elaborately. We label this phenomenon the Chomsky illusion.
  • Wang, L., Zhu, Z., & Bastiaansen, M. C. M. (2012). Integration or predictability? A further specification of the functional role of gamma oscillations in language comprehension. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 187. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00187.

    Abstract

    Gamma-band neuronal synchronization during sentence-level language comprehension has previously been linked with semantic unification. Here, we attempt to further narrow down the functional significance of gamma during language comprehension, by distinguishing between two aspects of semantic unification: successful integration of word meaning into the sentence context, and prediction of upcoming words. We computed event-related potentials (ERPs) and frequency band-specific electroencephalographic (EEG) power changes while participants read sentences that contained a critical word (CW) that was (1) both semantically congruent and predictable (high cloze, HC), (2) semantically congruent but unpredictable (low cloze, LC), or (3) semantically incongruent (and therefore also unpredictable; semantic violation, SV). The ERP analysis showed the expected parametric N400 modulation (HC < LC < SV). The time-frequency analysis showed qualitatively different results. In the gamma-frequency range, we observed a power increase in response to the CW in the HC condition, but not in the LC and the SV conditions. Additionally, in the theta frequency range we observed a power increase in the SV condition only. Our data provide evidence that gamma power increases are related to the predictability of an upcoming word based on the preceding sentence context, rather than to the integration of the incoming word’s semantics into the preceding context. Further, our theta band data are compatible with the notion that theta band synchronization in sentence comprehension might be related to the detection of an error in the language input.
  • Weber, K. (2012). The language learning brain: Evidence from second language learning and bilingual studies of syntactic processing. PhD Thesis, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen.

    Abstract

    Many people speak a second language next to their mother tongue. How do they learn this language and how does the brain process it compared to the native language? A second language can be learned without explicit instruction. Our brains automatically pick up grammatical structures, such as word order, when these structures are repeated frequently during learning. The learning takes place within hours or days and the same brain areas, such as frontal and temporal brain regions, that process our native language are very quickly activated. When people master a second language very well, even the same neuronal populations in these language brain areas are involved. This is especially the case when the grammatical structures are similar. In conclusion, it appears that a second language builds on the existing cognitive and neural mechanisms of the native language as much as possible.
  • Willems, R. M., & Francken, J. C. (2012). Embodied cognition: Taking the next step. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 582. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00582.

    Abstract

    Recent years have seen a large amount of empirical studies related to ‘embodied cognition’. While interesting and valuable, there is something dissatisfying with the current state of affairs in this research domain. Hypotheses tend to be underspecified, testing in general terms for embodied versus disembodied processing. The lack of specificity of current hypotheses can easily lead to an erosion of the embodiment concept, and result in a situation in which essentially any effect is taken as positive evidence. Such erosion is not helpful to the field and does not do justice to the importance of embodiment. Here we want to take stock, and formulate directions for how it can be studied in a more fruitful fashion. As an example we will describe few example studies that have investigated the role of sensori-motor systems in the coding of meaning (‘embodied semantics’). Instead of focusing on the dichotomy between embodied and disembodied theories, we suggest that the field move forward and ask how and when sensori-motor systems and behavior are involved in cognition.
  • Xiang, H. (2012). The language networks of the brain. PhD Thesis, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen.

    Abstract

    In recent decades, neuroimaging studies on the neural infrastructure of language are usually (or mostly) conducted with certain on-line language processing tasks. These functional neuroimaging studies helped to localize the language areas in the brain and to investigate the brain activity during explicit language processing. However, little is known about what is going on with the language areas when the brain is ‘at rest’, i.e., when there is no explicit language processing running. Taking advantage of the fcMRI and DTI techniques, this thesis is able to investigate the language function ‘off-line’ at the neuronal network level and the connectivity among language areas in the brain. Based on patient studies, the traditional, classical model on the perisylvian language network specifies a “Broca’ area – Arcuate Fasciculus – Werinicke’s area” loop (Ojemann 1991). With the help of modern neuroimaging techniques, researchers have been able to track language pathways that involve more brain structures than are in the classical model, and relate them to certain language functions. In such a background, a large part of this thesis made a contribution to the study of the topology of the language networks. It revealed that the language networks form a topographical functional connectivity pattern in the left hemisphere for the right-handers. This thesis also revealed the importance of structural hubs, such as Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas, which have more connectivity to other brain areas and play a central role in the language networks. Furthermore, this thesis revealed both functionally and structurally lateralized language networks in the brain. The consistency between what is found in this thesis and what has been known from previous functional studies seems to suggest, that the human brain is optimized and ‘ready’ for the language function even when there is currently no explicit language-processing running.
  • Xiang, H., Dediu, D., Roberts, L., Van Oort, E., Norris, D., & Hagoort, P. (2012). The structural connectivity underpinning language aptitude, working memory and IQ in the perisylvian language network. Language Learning, 62(Supplement S2), 110-130. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9922.2012.00708.x.

    Abstract

    We carried out the first study on the relationship between individual language aptitude and structural connectivity of language pathways in the adult brain. We measured four components of language aptitude (vocabulary learning, VocL; sound recognition, SndRec; sound-symbol correspondence, SndSym; and grammatical inferencing, GrInf) using the LLAMA language aptitude test (Meara, 2005). Spatial working memory (SWM), verbal working memory (VWM) and IQ were also measured as control factors. Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) was employed to investigate the structural connectivity of language pathways in the perisylvian language network. Principal Component Analysis (PCA) on behavioural measures suggests that a general ability might be important to the first stages of L2 acquisition. It also suggested that VocL, SndSy and SWM are more closely related to general IQ than SndRec and VocL, and distinguished the tasks specifically designed to tap into L2 acquisition (VocL, SndRec,SndSym and GrInf) from more generic measures (IQ, SWM and VWM). Regression analysis suggested significant correlations between most of these behavioural measures and the structural connectivity of certain language pathways, i.e., VocL and BA47-Parietal pathway, SndSym and inter-hemispheric BA45 pathway, GrInf and BA45-Temporal pathway and BA6-Temporal pathway, IQ and BA44-Parietal pathway, BA47-Parietal pathway, BA47-Temporal pathway and inter-hemispheric BA45 pathway, SWM and inter-hemispheric BA6 pathway and BA47-Parietal pathway, and VWM and BA47-Temporal pathway. These results are discussed in relation to relevant findings in the literature.
  • Zhu, Z., Hagoort, P., Zhang, J. X., Feng, G., Chen, H.-C., Bastiaansen, M. C. M., & Wang, S. (2012). The anterior left inferior frontal gyrus contributes to semantic unification. NeuroImage, 60, 2230-2237. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.02.036.

    Abstract

    Semantic unification, the process by which small blocks of semantic information are combined into a coherent utterance, has been studied with various types of tasks. However, whether the brain activations reported in these studies are attributed to semantic unification per se or to other task-induced concomitant processes still remains unclear. The neural basis for semantic unification in sentence comprehension was examined using event-related potentials (ERP) and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). The semantic unification load was manipulated by varying the goodness of fit between a critical word and its preceding context (in high cloze, low cloze and violation sentences). The sentences were presented in a serial visual presentation mode. The participants were asked to perform one of three tasks: semantic congruency judgment (SEM), silent reading for comprehension (READ), or font size judgment (FONT), in separate sessions. The ERP results showed a similar N400 amplitude modulation by the semantic unification load across all of the three tasks. The brain activations associated with the semantic unification load were found in the anterior left inferior frontal gyrus (aLIFG) in the FONT task and in a widespread set of regions in the other two tasks. These results suggest that the aLIFG activation reflects a semantic unification, which is different from other brain activations that may reflect task-specific strategic processing.

    Supplementary material

    Zhu_2012_suppl.dot
  • Zwitserlood, I., Perniss, P. M., & Ozyurek, A. (2012). An empirical investigation of expression of multiple entities in Turkish Sign Language (TİD): Considering the effects of modality. Lingua, 122, 1636 -1667. doi:10.1016/j.lingua.2012.08.010.

    Abstract

    This paper explores the expression of multiple entities in Turkish Sign Language (Türk İşaret Dili; TİD), a less well-studied sign language. It aims to provide a comprehensive description of the ways and frequencies in which entity plurality in this language is expressed, both within and outside the noun phrase. We used a corpus that includes both elicited and spontaneous data from native signers. The results reveal that most of the expressions of multiple entities in TİD are iconic, spatial strategies (i.e. localization and spatial plural predicate inflection) none of which, we argue, should be considered as genuine plural marking devices with the main aim of expressing plurality. Instead, the observed devices for localization and predicate inflection allow for a plural interpretation when multiple locations in space are used. Our data do not provide evidence that TİD employs (productive) morphological plural marking (i.e. reduplication) on nouns, in contrast to some other sign languages and many spoken languages. We relate our findings to expression of multiple entities in other signed languages and in spoken languages and discuss these findings in terms of modality effects on expression of multiple entities in human language.

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