Publications

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  • Armeni, K., Willems, R. M., Van den Bosch, A., & Schoffelen, J.-M. (2019). Frequency-specific brain dynamics related to prediction during language comprehension. NeuroImage, 198, 283-295. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.04.083.

    Abstract

    The brain's remarkable capacity to process spoken language virtually in real time requires fast and efficient information processing machinery. In this study, we investigated how frequency-specific brain dynamics relate to models of probabilistic language prediction during auditory narrative comprehension. We recorded MEG activity while participants were listening to auditory stories in Dutch. Using trigram statistical language models, we estimated for every word in a story its conditional probability of occurrence. On the basis of word probabilities, we computed how unexpected the current word is given its context (word perplexity) and how (un)predictable the current linguistic context is (word entropy). We then evaluated whether source-reconstructed MEG oscillations at different frequency bands are modulated as a function of these language processing metrics. We show that theta-band source dynamics are increased in high relative to low entropy states, likely reflecting lexical computations. Beta-band dynamics are increased in situations of low word entropy and perplexity possibly reflecting maintenance of ongoing cognitive context. These findings lend support to the idea that the brain engages in the active generation and evaluation of predicted language based on the statistical properties of the input signal.

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  • Basnakova, J. (2019). Beyond the language given: The neurobiological infrastructure for pragmatic inferencing. PhD Thesis, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen.
  • Bocanegra, B. R., Poletiek, F. H., Ftitache, B., & Clark, A. (2019). Intelligent problem-solvers externalize cognitive operations. Nature Human Behaviour, 3, 136-142. doi:10.1038/s41562-018-0509-y.

    Abstract

    Humans are nature’s most intelligent and prolific users of external props and aids (such as written texts, slide-rules and software packages). Here we introduce a method for investigating how people make active use of their task environment during problem-solving and apply this approach to the non-verbal Raven Advanced Progressive Matrices test for fluid intelligence. We designed a click-and-drag version of the Raven test in which participants could create different external spatial configurations while solving the puzzles. In our first study, we observed that the click-and-drag test was better than the conventional static test at predicting academic achievement of university students. This pattern of results was partially replicated in a novel sample. Importantly, environment-altering actions were clustered in between periods of apparent inactivity, suggesting that problem-solvers were delicately balancing the execution of internal and external cognitive operations. We observed a systematic relationship between this critical phasic temporal signature and improved test performance. Our approach is widely applicable and offers an opportunity to quantitatively assess a powerful, although understudied, feature of human intelligence: our ability to use external objects, props and aids to solve complex problems.
  • Bosker, H. R., Van Os, M., Does, R., & Van Bergen, G. (2019). Counting 'uhm's: how tracking the distribution of native and non-native disfluencies influences online language comprehension. Journal of Memory and Language, 106, 189-202. doi:10.1016/j.jml.2019.02.006.

    Abstract

    Disfluencies, like 'uh', have been shown to help listeners anticipate reference to low-frequency words. The associative account of this 'disfluency bias' proposes that listeners learn to associate disfluency with low-frequency referents based on prior exposure to non-arbitrary disfluency distributions (i.e., greater probability of low-frequency words after disfluencies). However, there is limited evidence for listeners actually tracking disfluency distributions online. The present experiments are the first to show that adult listeners, exposed to a typical or more atypical disfluency distribution (i.e., hearing a talker unexpectedly say uh before high-frequency words), flexibly adjust their predictive strategies to the disfluency distribution at hand (e.g., learn to predict high-frequency referents after disfluency). However, when listeners were presented with the same atypical disfluency distribution but produced by a non-native speaker, no adjustment was observed. This suggests pragmatic inferences can modulate distributional learning, revealing the flexibility of, and constraints on, distributional learning in incremental language comprehension.
  • Burra, N., Hervais-Adelman, A., Celeghin, A., de Gelder, B., & Pegna, A. J. (2019). Affective blindsight relies on low spatial frequencies. Neuropsychologia, 128, 44-49. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2017.10.009.

    Abstract

    The human brain can process facial expressions of emotions rapidly and without awareness. Several studies in patients with damage to their primary visual cortices have shown that they may be able to guess the emotional expression on a face despite their cortical blindness. This non-conscious processing, called affective blindsight, may arise through an intact subcortical visual route that leads from the superior colliculus to the pulvinar, and thence to the amygdala. This pathway is thought to process the crude visual information conveyed by the low spatial frequencies of the stimuli. In order to investigate whether this is the case, we studied a patient (TN) with bilateral cortical blindness and affective blindsight. An fMRI paradigm was performed in which fearful and neutral expressions were presented using faces that were either unfiltered, or filtered to remove high or low spatial frequencies. Unfiltered fearful faces produced right amygdala activation although the patient was unaware of the presence of the stimuli. More importantly, the low spatial frequency components of fearful faces continued to produce right amygdala activity while the high spatial frequency components did not. Our findings thus confirm that the visual information present in the low spatial frequencies is sufficient to produce affective blindsight, further suggesting that its existence could rely on the subcortical colliculo-pulvino-amygdalar pathway.
  • Fields, E. C., Weber, K., Stillerman, B., Delaney-Busch, N., & Kuperberg, G. (2019). Functional MRI reveals evidence of a self-positivity bias in the medial prefrontal cortex during the comprehension of social vignettes. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 14(6), 613-621. doi:10.1093/scan/nsz035.

    Abstract

    A large literature in social neuroscience has associated the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) with the processing of self-related information. However, only recently have social neuroscience studies begun to consider the large behavioral literature showing a strong self-positivity bias, and these studies have mostly focused on its correlates during self-related judgments and decision making. We carried out a functional MRI (fMRI) study to ask whether the mPFC would show effects of the self-positivity bias in a paradigm that probed participants’ self-concept without any requirement of explicit self-judgment. We presented social vignettes that were either self-relevant or non-self-relevant with a neutral, positive, or negative outcome described in the second sentence. In previous work using event-related potentials, this paradigm has shown evidence of a self-positivity bias that influences early stages of semantically processing incoming stimuli. In the present fMRI study, we found evidence for this bias within the mPFC: an interaction between self-relevance and valence, with only positive scenarios showing a self vs other effect within the mPFC. We suggest that the mPFC may play a role in maintaining a positively-biased self-concept and discuss the implications of these findings for the social neuroscience of the self and the role of the mPFC.

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  • Fitz, H., & Chang, F. (2019). Language ERPs reflect learning through prediction error propagation. Cognitive Psychology, 111, 15-52. doi:10.1016/j.cogpsych.2019.03.002.

    Abstract

    Event-related potentials (ERPs) provide a window into how the brain is processing language. Here, we propose a theory that argues that ERPs such as the N400 and P600 arise as side effects of an error-based learning mechanism that explains linguistic adaptation and language learning. We instantiated this theory in a connectionist model that can simulate data from three studies on the N400 (amplitude modulation by expectancy, contextual constraint, and sentence position), five studies on the P600 (agreement, tense, word category, subcategorization and garden-path sentences), and a study on the semantic P600 in role reversal anomalies. Since ERPs are learning signals, this account explains adaptation of ERP amplitude to within-experiment frequency manipulations and the way ERP effects are shaped by word predictability in earlier sentences. Moreover, it predicts that ERPs can change over language development. The model provides an account of the sensitivity of ERPs to expectation mismatch, the relative timing of the N400 and P600, the semantic nature of the N400, the syntactic nature of the P600, and the fact that ERPs can change with experience. This approach suggests that comprehension ERPs are related to sentence production and language acquisition mechanisms
  • Flecken, M., & Van Bergen, G. (2019). Can the English stand the bottle like the Dutch? Effects of relational categories on object perception. Cognitive Neuropsychology. Advance online publication. doi:10.1080/02643294.2019.1607272.

    Abstract

    Does language influence how we perceive the world? This study examines how linguistic encoding of relational information by means of verbs implicitly affects visual processing, by measuring perceptual judgements behaviourally, and visual perception and attention in EEG. Verbal systems can vary cross-linguistically: Dutch uses posture verbs to describe inanimate object configurations (the bottle stands/lies on the table). In English, however, such use of posture verbs is rare (the bottle is on the table). Using this test case, we ask (1) whether previously attested language-perception interactions extend to more complex domains, and (2) whether differences in linguistic usage probabilities affect perception. We report three nonverbal experiments in which Dutch and English participants performed a picture-matching task. Prime and target pictures contained object configurations (e.g., a bottle on a table); in the critical condition, prime and target showed a mismatch in object position (standing/lying). In both language groups, we found similar responses, suggesting that probabilistic differences in linguistic encoding of relational information do not affect perception.
  • Franken, M. K., Acheson, D. J., McQueen, J. M., Hagoort, P., & Eisner, F. (2019). Consistency influences altered auditory feedback processing. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 72(10), 2371-2379. doi:10.1177/1747021819838939.

    Abstract

    Previous research on the effect of perturbed auditory feedback in speech production has focused on two types of responses. In the short term, speakers generate compensatory motor commands in response to unexpected perturbations. In the longer term, speakers adapt feedforward motor programmes in response to feedback perturbations, to avoid future errors. The current study investigated the relation between these two types of responses to altered auditory feedback. Specifically, it was hypothesised that consistency in previous feedback perturbations would influence whether speakers adapt their feedforward motor programmes. In an altered auditory feedback paradigm, formant perturbations were applied either across all trials (the consistent condition) or only to some trials, whereas the others remained unperturbed (the inconsistent condition). The results showed that speakers’ responses were affected by feedback consistency, with stronger speech changes in the consistent condition compared with the inconsistent condition. Current models of speech-motor control can explain this consistency effect. However, the data also suggest that compensation and adaptation are distinct processes, which are not in line with all current models.
  • Gao, Y., Zheng, L., Liu, X., Nichols, E. S., Zhang, M., Shang, L., Ding, G., Meng, Z., & Liu, L. (2019). First and second language reading difficulty among Chinese–English bilingual children: The prevalence and influences from demographic characteristics. Frontiers in Psychology, 10: 2544. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02544.

    Abstract

    Learning to read a second language (L2) can pose a great challenge for children who have already been struggling to read in their first language (L1). Moreover, it is not clear whether, to what extent, and under what circumstances L1 reading difficulty increases the risk of L2 reading difficulty. This study investigated Chinese (L1) and English (L2) reading skills in a large representative sample of 1,824 Chinese–English bilingual children in Grades 4 and 5 from both urban and rural schools in Beijing. We examined the prevalence of reading difficulty in Chinese only (poor Chinese readers, PC), English only (poor English readers, PE), and both Chinese and English (poor bilingual readers, PB) and calculated the co-occurrence, that is, the chances of becoming a poor reader in English given that the child was already a poor reader in Chinese. We then conducted a multinomial logistic regression analysis and compared the prevalence of PC, PE, and PB between children in Grade 4 versus Grade 5, in urban versus rural areas, and in boys versus girls. Results showed that compared to girls, boys demonstrated significantly higher risk of PC, PE, and PB. Meanwhile, compared to the 5th graders, the 4th graders demonstrated significantly higher risk of PC and PB. In addition, children enrolled in the urban schools were more likely to become better second language readers, thus leading to a concerning rural–urban gap in the prevalence of L2 reading difficulty. Finally, among these Chinese–English bilingual children, regardless of sex and school location, poor reading skill in Chinese significantly increased the risk of also being a poor English reader, with a considerable and stable co-occurrence of approximately 36%. In sum, this study suggests that despite striking differences between alphabetic and logographic writing systems, L1 reading difficulty still significantly increases the risk of L2 reading difficulty. This indicates the shared meta-linguistic skills in reading different writing systems and the importance of understanding the universality and the interdependent relationship of reading between different writing systems. Furthermore, the male disadvantage (in both L1 and L2) and the urban–rural gap (in L2) found in the prevalence of reading difficulty calls for special attention to disadvantaged populations in educational practice.
  • Gao, X., Dera, J., Nijhoff, A. D., & Willems, R. M. (2019). Is less readable liked better? The case of font readability in poetry appreciation. PLoS One, 14(12): e0225757. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0225757.

    Abstract

    Previous research shows conflicting findings for the effect of font readability on comprehension and memory for language. It has been found that—perhaps counterintuitively–a hard to read font can be beneficial for language comprehension, especially for difficult language. Here we test how font readability influences the subjective experience of poetry reading. In three experiments we tested the influence of poem difficulty and font readability on the subjective experience of poems. We specifically predicted that font readability would have opposite effects on the subjective experience of easy versus difficult poems. Participants read poems which could be more or less difficult in terms of conceptual or structural aspects, and which were presented in a font that was either easy or more difficult to read. Participants read existing poems and subsequently rated their subjective experience (measured through four dependent variables: overall liking, perceived flow of the poem, perceived topic clarity, and perceived structure). In line with previous literature we observed a Poem Difficulty x Font Readability interaction effect for subjective measures of poetry reading. We found that participants rated easy poems as nicer when presented in an easy to read font, as compared to when presented in a hard to read font. Despite the presence of the interaction effect, we did not observe the predicted opposite effect for more difficult poems. We conclude that font readability can influence reading of easy and more difficult poems differentially, with strongest effects for easy poems.

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    https://osf.io/jwcqt/
  • Gehrig, J., Michalareas, G., Forster, M.-T., Lei, J., Hok, P., Laufs, H., Senft, C., Seifert, V., Schoffelen, J.-M., Hanslmayr, H., & Kell, C. A. (2019). Low-frequency oscillations code speech during verbal working memory. The Journal of Neuroscience, 39(33), 6498-6512. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0018-19.2019.

    Abstract

    The way the human brain represents speech in memory is still unknown. An obvious characteristic of speech is its evolvement over time. During speech processing, neural oscillations are modulated by the temporal properties of the acoustic speech signal, but also acquired knowledge on the temporal structure of language influences speech perception-related brain activity. This suggests that speech could be represented in the temporal domain, a form of representation that the brain also uses to encode autobiographic memories. Empirical evidence for such a memory code is lacking. We investigated the nature of speech memory representations using direct cortical recordings in the left perisylvian cortex during delayed sentence reproduction in female and male patients undergoing awake tumor surgery. Our results reveal that the brain endogenously represents speech in the temporal domain. Temporal pattern similarity analyses revealed that the phase of frontotemporal low-frequency oscillations, primarily in the beta range, represents sentence identity in working memory. The positive relationship between beta power during working memory and task performance suggests that working memory representations benefit from increased phase separation.
  • Hagoort, P., & Beckmann, C. F. (2019). Key issues and future directions: The neural architecture for language. In P. Hagoort (Ed.), Human language: From genes and brains to behavior (pp. 527-532). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Hagoort, P. (2019). Introduction. In P. Hagoort (Ed.), Human language: From genes and brains to behavior (pp. 1-6). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Hagoort, P. (Ed.). (2019). Human language: From genes and brains to behavior. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Hagoort, P. (2019). The neurobiology of language beyond single word processing. Science, 366(6461), 55-58. doi:10.1126/science.aax0289.

    Abstract

    In this Review, I propose a multiple-network view for the neurobiological basis of distinctly human language skills. A much more complex picture of interacting brain areas emerges than in the classical neurobiological model of language. This is because using language is more than single-word processing, and much goes on beyond the information given in the acoustic or orthographic tokens that enter primary sensory cortices. This requires the involvement of multiple networks with functionally nonoverlapping contributions

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  • Hagoort, P. (2019). The meaning making mechanism(s) behind the eyes and between the ears. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 375: 20190301. doi:10.1098/rstb.2019.0301.

    Abstract

    In this contribution, the following four questions are discussed: (i) where is meaning?; (ii) what is meaning?; (iii) what is the meaning of mechanism?; (iv) what are the mechanisms of meaning? I will argue that meanings are in the head. Meanings have multiple facets, but minimally one needs to make a distinction between single word meanings (lexical meaning) and the meanings of multi-word utterances. The latter ones cannot be retrieved from memory, but need to be constructed on the fly. A mechanistic account of the meaning-making mind requires an analysis at both a functional and a neural level, the reason being that these levels are causally interdependent. I will show that an analysis exclusively focusing on patterns of brain activation lacks explanatory power. Finally, I shall present an initial sketch of how the dynamic interaction between temporo-parietal areas and inferior frontal cortex might instantiate the interpretation of linguistic utterances in the context of a multimodal setting and ongoing discourse information.
  • Heilbron, M., Ehinger, B., Hagoort, P., & De Lange, F. P. (2019). Tracking naturalistic linguistic predictions with deep neural language models. In Proceedings of the 2019 Conference on Cognitive Computational Neuroscience (pp. 424-427). doi:10.32470/CCN.2019.1096-0.

    Abstract

    Prediction in language has traditionally been studied using simple designs in which neural responses to expected and unexpected words are compared in a categorical fashion. However, these designs have been contested as being ‘prediction encouraging’, potentially exaggerating the importance of prediction in language understanding. A few recent studies have begun to address these worries by using model-based approaches to probe the effects of linguistic predictability in naturalistic stimuli (e.g. continuous narrative). However, these studies so far only looked at very local forms of prediction, using models that take no more than the prior two words into account when computing a word’s predictability. Here, we extend this approach using a state-of-the-art neural language model that can take roughly 500 times longer linguistic contexts into account. Predictability estimates fromthe neural network offer amuch better fit to EEG data from subjects listening to naturalistic narrative than simpler models, and reveal strong surprise responses akin to the P200 and N400. These results show that predictability effects in language are not a side-effect of simple designs, and demonstrate the practical use of recent advances in AI for the cognitive neuroscience of language.
  • Hervais-Adelman, A., Kumar, U., Mishra, R. K., Tripathi, V. N., Guleria, A., Singh, J. P., Eisner, F., & Huettig, F. (2019). Learning to read recycles visual cortical networks without destruction. Science Advances, 5(9): eaax0262. doi:10.1126/sciadv.aax0262.

    Abstract

    Learning to read is associated with the appearance of an orthographically sensitive brain region known as the visual word form area. It has been claimed that development of this area proceeds by impinging upon territory otherwise available for the processing of culturally relevant stimuli such as faces and houses. In a large-scale functional magnetic resonance imaging study of a group of individuals of varying degrees of literacy (from completely illiterate to highly literate), we examined cortical responses to orthographic and nonorthographic visual stimuli. We found that literacy enhances responses to other visual input in early visual areas and enhances representational similarity between text and faces, without reducing the extent of response to nonorthographic input. Thus, acquisition of literacy in childhood recycles existing object representation mechanisms but without destructive competition.

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  • Heyselaar, E., & Segaert, K. (2019). Memory encoding of syntactic information involves domain-general attentional resources. Evidence from dual-task studies. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 72(6), 1285-1296. doi:10.1177/1747021818801249.

    Abstract

    We investigate the type of attention (domain-general or language-specific) used during syntactic processing. We focus on syntactic priming: In this task, participants listen to a sentence that describes a picture (prime sentence), followed by a picture the participants need to describe (target sentence). We measure the proportion of times participants use the syntactic structure they heard in the prime sentence to describe the current target sentence as a measure of syntactic processing. Participants simultaneously conducted a motion-object tracking (MOT) task, a task commonly used to tax domain-general attentional resources. We manipulated the number of objects the participant had to track; we thus measured participants’ ability to process syntax while their attention is not-, slightly-, or overly-taxed. Performance in the MOT task was significantly worse when conducted as a dual-task compared to as a single task. We observed an inverted U-shaped curve on priming magnitude when conducting the MOT task concurrently with prime sentences (i.e., memory encoding), but no effect when conducted with target sentences (i.e., memory retrieval). Our results illustrate how, during the encoding of syntactic information, domain-general attention differentially affects syntactic processing, whereas during the retrieval of syntactic information domain-general attention does not influence syntactic processing
  • Hubbard, R. J., Rommers, J., Jacobs, C. L., & Federmeier, K. D. (2019). Downstream behavioral and electrophysiological consequences of word prediction on recognition memory. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 13: 291. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2019.00291.

    Abstract

    When people process language, they can use context to predict upcoming information, influencing processing and comprehension as seen in both behavioral and neural measures. Although numerous studies have shown immediate facilitative effects of confirmed predictions, the downstream consequences of prediction have been less explored. In the current study, we examined those consequences by probing participants’ recognition memory for words after they read sets of sentences. Participants read strongly and weakly constraining sentences with expected or unexpected endings (“I added my name to the list/basket”), and later were tested on their memory for the sentence endings while EEG was recorded. Critically, the memory test contained words that were predictable (“list”) but were never read (participants saw “basket”). Behaviorally, participants showed successful discrimination between old and new items, but false alarmed to the expected-item lures more often than to new items, showing that predicted words or concepts can linger, even when predictions are disconfirmed. Although false alarm rates did not differ by constraint, event-related potentials (ERPs) differed between false alarms to strongly and weakly predictable words. Additionally, previously unexpected (compared to previously expected) endings that appeared on the memory test elicited larger N1 and LPC amplitudes, suggesting greater attention and episodic recollection. In contrast, highly predictable sentence endings that had been read elicited reduced LPC amplitudes during the memory test. Thus, prediction can facilitate processing in the moment, but can also lead to false memory and reduced recollection for predictable information.
  • Hulten, A., Schoffelen, J.-M., Udden, J., Lam, N. H. L., & Hagoort, P. (2019). How the brain makes sense beyond the processing of single words – An MEG study. NeuroImage, 186, 586-594. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2018.11.035.

    Abstract

    Human language processing involves combinatorial operations that make human communication stand out in the animal kingdom. These operations rely on a dynamic interplay between the inferior frontal and the posterior temporal cortices. Using source reconstructed magnetoencephalography, we tracked language processing in the brain, in order to investigate how individual words are interpreted when part of sentence context. The large sample size in this study (n = 68) allowed us to assess how event-related activity is associated across distinct cortical areas, by means of inter-areal co-modulation within an individual. We showed that, within 500 ms of seeing a word, the word's lexical information has been retrieved and unified with the sentence context. This does not happen in a strictly feed-forward manner, but by means of co-modulation between the left posterior temporal cortex (LPTC) and left inferior frontal cortex (LIFC), for each individual word. The co-modulation of LIFC and LPTC occurs around 400 ms after the onset of each word, across the progression of a sentence. Moreover, these core language areas are supported early on by the attentional network. The results provide a detailed description of the temporal orchestration related to single word processing in the context of ongoing language.

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  • De Kleijn, R., Wijnen, M., & Poletiek, F. H. (2019). The effect of context-dependent information and sentence constructions on perceived humanness of an agent in a Turing test. Knowledge-Based Systems, 163, 794-799. doi:10.1016/j.knosys.2018.10.006.

    Abstract

    In a Turing test, a judge decides whether their conversation partner is either a machine or human. What cues does the judge use to determine this? In particular, are presumably unique features of human language actually perceived as humanlike? Participants rated the humanness of a set of sentences that were manipulated for grammatical construction: linear right-branching or hierarchical center-embedded and their plausibility with regard to world knowledge. We found that center-embedded sentences are perceived as less humanlike than right-branching sentences and more plausible sentences are regarded as more humanlike. However, the effect of plausibility of the sentence on perceived humanness is smaller for center-embedded sentences than for right-branching sentences. Participants also rated a conversation with either correct or incorrect use of the context by the agent. No effect of context use was found. Also, participants rated a full transcript of either a real human or a real chatbot, and we found that chatbots were reliably perceived as less humanlike than real humans, in line with our expectation. We did, however, find individual differences between chatbots and humans.
  • Kochari, A., & Flecken, M. (2019). Lexical prediction in language comprehension: A replication study of grammatical gender effects in Dutch. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 34(2), 239-253. doi:10.1080/23273798.2018.1524500.

    Abstract

    An important question in predictive language processing is the extent to which prediction effects can reliably be measured on pre-nominal material (e.g. articles before nouns). Here, we present a large sample (N = 58) close replication of a study by Otten and van Berkum (2009). They report ERP modulations in relation to the predictability of nouns in sentences, measured on gender-marked Dutch articles. We used nearly identical materials, procedures, and data analysis steps. We fail to replicate the original effect, but do observe a pattern consistent with the original data. Methodological differences between our replication and the original study that could potentially have contributed to the diverging results are discussed. In addition, we discuss the suitability of Dutch gender-marked determiners as a test-case for future studies of pre-activation of lexical items.
  • Kuperberg, G., Weber, K., Delaney-Busch, N., Ustine, C., Stillerman, B., Hämäläinen, M., & Lau, E. (2019). Multimodal neuroimaging evidence for looser lexico-semantic connections in schizophrenia. Neuropsychologia, 124, 337-349. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2018.10.024.

    Abstract

    It has been hypothesized that schizophrenia is characterized by overly broad automatic activity within lexico-semantic networks. We used two complementary neuroimaging techniques, Magnetoencephalography (MEG) and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), in combination with a highly automatic indirect semantic priming paradigm, to spatiotemporally localize this abnormality in the brain. Eighteen people with schizophrenia and 20 demographically-matched control participants viewed target words (“bell”) preceded by directly related (“church”), indirectly related (“priest”), or unrelated (“pants”) prime words in MEG and fMRI sessions. To minimize top-down processing, the prime was masked, the target appeared only 140ms after prime onset, and participants simply monitored for words within a particular semantic category that appeared in filler trials. Both techniques revealed a significantly larger automatic indirect priming effect in people with schizophrenia than in control participants. MEG temporally localized this enhanced effect to the N400 time window (300-500ms) — the critical stage of accessing meaning from words. fMRI spatially localized the effect to the left temporal fusiform cortex, which plays a role in mapping of orthographic word-form on to meaning. There was no evidence of an enhanced automatic direct semantic priming effect in the schizophrenia group. These findings provide converging neural evidence for abnormally broad highly automatic lexico-semantic activity in schizophrenia. We argue that, rather than arising from an unconstrained spread of automatic activation across semantic memory, this broader automatic lexico-semantic activity stems from looser connections between the form and meaning of words.

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    1-s2.0-S0028393218307310-mmc1.docx
  • Mak, M., & Willems, R. M. (2019). Mental simulation during literary reading: Individual differences revealed with eye-tracking. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 34(4), 511-535. doi:10.1080/23273798.2018.1552007.

    Abstract

    People engage in simulation when reading literary narratives. In this study, we tried to pinpoint how different kinds of simulation (perceptual and motor simulation, mentalising) affect reading behaviour. Eye-tracking (gaze durations, regression probability) and questionnaire data were collected from 102 participants, who read three literary short stories. In a pre-test, 90 additional participants indicated which parts of the stories were high in one of the three kinds of simulation-eliciting content. The results show that motor simulation reduces gaze duration (faster reading), whereas perceptual simulation and mentalising increase gaze duration (slower reading). Individual differences in the effect of simulation on gaze duration were found, which were related to individual differences in aspects of story world absorption and story appreciation. These findings suggest fundamental differences between different kinds of simulation and confirm the role of simulation in absorption and appreciation.
  • Mantegna, F., Hintz, F., Ostarek, M., Alday, P. M., & Huettig, F. (2019). Distinguishing integration and prediction accounts of ERP N400 modulations in language processing through experimental design. Neuropsychologia, 134: 107199. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2019.107199.

    Abstract

    Prediction of upcoming input is thought to be a main characteristic of language processing (e.g. Altmann & Mirkovic, 2009; Dell & Chang, 2014; Federmeier, 2007; Ferreira & Chantavarin, 2018; Pickering & Gambi, 2018; Hale, 2001; Hickok, 2012; Huettig 2015; Kuperberg & Jaeger, 2016; Levy, 2008; Norris, McQueen, & Cutler, 2016; Pickering & Garrod, 2013; Van Petten & Luka, 2012). One of the main pillars of experimental support for this notion comes from studies that have attempted to measure electrophysiological markers of prediction when participants read or listened to sentences ending in highly predictable words. The N400, a negative-going and centro-parietally distributed component of the ERP occurring approximately 400ms after (target) word onset, has been frequently interpreted as indexing prediction of the word (or the semantic representations and/or the phonological form of the predicted word, see Kutas & Federmeier, 2011; Nieuwland, 2019; Van Petten & Luka, 2012; for review). A major difficulty for interpreting N400 effects in language processing however is that it has been difficult to establish whether N400 target word modulations conclusively reflect prediction rather than (at least partly) ease of integration. In the present exploratory study, we attempted to distinguish lexical prediction (i.e. ‘top-down’ activation) from lexical integration (i.e. ‘bottom-up’ activation) accounts of ERP N400 modulations in language processing.
  • Martinez-Conde, S., Alexander, R. G., Blum, D., Britton, N., Lipska, B. K., Quirk, G. J., Swiss, J. I., Willems, R. M., & Macknik, S. L. (2019). The storytelling brain: How neuroscience stories help bridge the gap between research and society. The Journal of Neuroscience, 39(42), 8285-8290. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1180-19.2019.

    Abstract

    Active communication between researchers and society is necessary for the scientific community’s involvement in developing sciencebased policies. This need is recognized by governmental and funding agencies that compel scientists to increase their public engagement and disseminate research findings in an accessible fashion. Storytelling techniques can help convey science by engaging people’s imagination and emotions. Yet, many researchers are uncertain about how to approach scientific storytelling, or feel they lack the tools to undertake it. Here we explore some of the techniques intrinsic to crafting scientific narratives, as well as the reasons why scientific storytellingmaybe an optimal way of communicating research to nonspecialists.Wealso point out current communication gaps between science and society, particularly in the context of neurodiverse audiences and those that include neurological and psychiatric patients. Present shortcomings may turn into areas of synergy with the potential to link neuroscience education, research, and advocacy
  • Misersky, J., Majid, A., & Snijders, T. M. (2019). Grammatical gender in German influences how role-nouns are interpreted: Evidence from ERPs. Discourse Processes, 56(8), 643-654. doi:10.1080/0163853X.2018.1541382.

    Abstract

    Grammatically masculine role-nouns (e.g., Studenten-masc.‘students’) can refer to men and women, but may favor an interpretation where only men are considered the referent. If true, this has implications for a society aiming to achieve equal representation in the workplace since, for example, job adverts use such role descriptions. To investigate the interpretation of role-nouns, the present ERP study assessed grammatical gender processing in German. Twenty participants read sentences where a role-noun (masculine or feminine) introduced a group of people, followed by a congruent (masculine–men, feminine–women) or incongruent (masculine–women, feminine–men) continuation. Both for feminine-men and masculine-women continuations a P600 (500 to 800 ms) was observed; another positivity was already present from 300 to 500 ms for feminine-men continuations, but critically not for masculine-women continuations. The results imply a male-biased rather than gender-neutral interpretation of the masculine—despite widespread usage of the masculine as a gender-neutral form—suggesting masculine forms are inadequate for representing genders equally.
  • Mongelli, V., Meijs, E. L., Van Gaal, S., & Hagoort, P. (2019). No language unification without neural feedback: How awareness affects sentence processing. Neuroimage, 202: 116063. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.116063.

    Abstract

    How does the human brain combine a finite number of words to form an infinite variety of sentences? According to the Memory, Unification and Control (MUC) model, sentence processing requires long-range feedback from the left inferior frontal cortex (LIFC) to left posterior temporal cortex (LPTC). Single word processing however may only require feedforward propagation of semantic information from sensory regions to LPTC. Here we tested the claim that long-range feedback is required for sentence processing by reducing visual awareness of words using a masking technique. Masking disrupts feedback processing while leaving feedforward processing relatively intact. Previous studies have shown that masked single words still elicit an N400 ERP effect, a neural signature of semantic incongruency. However, whether multiple words can be combined to form a sentence under reduced levels of awareness is controversial. To investigate this issue, we performed two experiments in which we measured electroencephalography (EEG) while 40 subjects performed a masked priming task. Words were presented either successively or simultaneously, thereby forming a short sentence that could be congruent or incongruent with a target picture. This sentence condition was compared with a typical single word condition. In the masked condition we only found an N400 effect for single words, whereas in the unmasked condition we observed an N400 effect for both unmasked sentences and single words. Our findings suggest that long-range feedback processing is required for sentence processing, but not for single word processing.
  • Nieuwland, M. S., Coopmans, C. W., & Sommers, R. P. (2019). Distinguishing old from new referents during discourse comprehension: Evidence from ERPs and oscillations. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 13: 398. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2019.00398.

    Abstract

    In this EEG study, we used pre-registered and exploratory ERP and time-frequency analyses to investigate the resolution of anaphoric and non-anaphoric noun phrases during discourse comprehension. Participants listened to story contexts that described two antecedents, and subsequently read a target sentence with a critical noun phrase that lexically matched one antecedent (‘old’), matched two antecedents (‘ambiguous’), partially matched one antecedent in terms of semantic features (‘partial-match’), or introduced another referent (non-anaphoric, ‘new’). After each target sentence, participants judged whether the noun referred back to an antecedent (i.e., an ‘old/new’ judgment), which was easiest for ambiguous nouns and hardest for partially matching nouns. The noun-elicited N400 ERP component demonstrated initial sensitivity to repetition and semantic overlap, corresponding to repetition and semantic priming effects, respectively. New and partially matching nouns both elicited a subsequent frontal positivity, which suggested that partially matching anaphors may have been processed as new nouns temporarily. ERPs in an even later time window and ERPs time-locked to sentence-final words suggested that new and partially matching nouns had different effects on comprehension, with partially matching nouns incurring additional processing costs up to the end of the sentence. In contrast to the ERP results, the time-frequency results primarily demonstrated sensitivity to noun repetition, and did not differentiate partially matching anaphors from new nouns. In sum, our results show the ERP and time-frequency effects of referent repetition during discourse comprehension, and demonstrate the potentially demanding nature of establishing the anaphoric meaning of a novel noun.
  • Nieuwland, M. S. (2019). Do ‘early’ brain responses reveal word form prediction during language comprehension? A critical review. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 96, 367-400. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2018.11.019.

    Abstract

    Current theories of language comprehension posit that readers and listeners routinely try to predict the meaning but also the visual or sound form of upcoming words. Whereas most neuroimaging studies on word rediction focus on the N400 ERP or its magnetic equivalent, various studies claim that word form prediction manifests itself in ‘early’, pre N400 brain responses (e.g., ELAN, M100, P130, N1, P2, N200/PMN, N250). Modulations of these components are often taken as evidence that word form prediction impacts early sensory processes (the sensory hypothesis) or, alternatively, the initial stages of word recognition before word meaning is integrated with sentence context (the recognition hypothesis). Here, I comprehensively review studies on sentence- or discourse-level language comprehension that report such effects of prediction on early brain responses. I conclude that the reported evidence for the sensory hypothesis or word recognition hypothesis is weak and inconsistent, and highlight the urgent need for replication of previous findings. I discuss the implications and challenges to current theories of linguistic prediction and suggest avenues for future research.
  • Ostarek, M., Van Paridon, J., & Montero-Melis, G. (2019). Sighted people’s language is not helpful for blind individuals’ acquisition of typical animal colors. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116(44), 21972-21973. doi:10.1073/pnas.1912302116.
  • Peeters, D., Vanlangendonck, F., Rüschemeyer, S.-A., & Dijkstra, T. (2019). Activation of the language control network in bilingual visual word recognition. Cortex, 111, 63-73. doi:10.1016/j.cortex.2018.10.012.

    Abstract

    Research into bilingual language production has identified a language control network that subserves control operations when bilinguals produce speech. Here we explore which brain areas are recruited for control purposes in bilingual language comprehension. In two experimental fMRI sessions, Dutch-English unbalanced bilinguals read words that differed in cross-linguistic form and meaning overlap across their two languages. The need for control operations was further manipulated by varying stimulus list composition across the two experimental sessions. We observed activation of the language control network in bilingual language comprehension as a function of both cross-linguistic form and meaning overlap and stimulus list composition. These findings suggest that the language control network is shared across bilingual language production and comprehension. We argue that activation of the language control network in language comprehension allows bilinguals to quickly and efficiently grasp the context-relevant meaning of words.

    Additional information

    1-s2.0-S0010945218303459-mmc1.docx
  • Peeters, D. (2019). Virtual reality: A game-changing method for the language sciences. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 26(3), 894-900. doi:10.3758/s13423-019-01571-3.

    Abstract

    This paper introduces virtual reality as an experimental method for the language sciences and provides a review of recent studies using the method to answer fundamental, psycholinguistic research questions. It is argued that virtual reality demonstrates that ecological validity and experimental control should not be conceived of as two extremes on a continuum, but rather as two orthogonal factors. Benefits of using virtual reality as an experimental method include that in a virtual environment, as in the real world, there is no artificial spatial divide between participant and stimulus. Moreover, virtual reality experiments do not necessarily have to include a repetitive trial structure or an unnatural experimental task. Virtual agents outperform experimental confederates in terms of the consistency and replicability of their behaviour, allowing for reproducible science across participants and research labs. The main promise of virtual reality as a tool for the experimental language sciences, however, is that it shifts theoretical focus towards the interplay between different modalities (e.g., speech, gesture, eye gaze, facial expressions) in dynamic and communicative real-world environments, complementing studies that focus on one modality (e.g. speech) in isolation.
  • Preisig, B., Sjerps, M. J., Kösem, A., & Riecke, L. (2019). Dual-site high-density 4Hz transcranial alternating current stimulation applied over auditory and motor cortical speech areas does not influence auditory-motor mapping. Brain Stimulation, 12(3), 775-777. doi:10.1016/j.brs.2019.01.007.

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  • Preisig, B., & Sjerps, M. J. (2019). Hemispheric specializations affect interhemispheric speech sound integration during duplex perception. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 145, EL190-EL196. doi:10.1121/1.5092829.

    Abstract

    The present study investigated whether speech-related spectral information benefits from initially predominant right or left hemisphere processing. Normal hearing individuals categorized speech sounds composed of an ambiguous base (perceptually intermediate between /ga/ and /da/), presented to one ear, and a disambiguating low or high F3 chirp presented to the other ear. Shorter response times were found when the chirp was presented to the left ear than to the right ear (inducing initially right-hemisphere chirp processing), but no between-ear differences in strength of overall integration. The results are in line with the assumptions of a right hemispheric dominance for spectral processing.

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  • Sakarias, M., & Flecken, M. (2019). Keeping the result in sight and mind: General cognitive principles and language-specific influences in the perception and memory of resultative events. Cognitive Science, 43(1), 1-30. doi:10.1111/cogs.12708.

    Abstract

    We study how people attend to and memorize endings of events that differ in the degree to which objects in them are affected by an action: Resultative events show objects that undergo a visually salient change in state during the course of the event (peeling a potato), and non‐resultative events involve objects that undergo no, or only partial state change (stirring in a pan). We investigate general cognitive principles, and potential language‐specific influences, in verbal and nonverbal event encoding and memory, across two experiments with Dutch and Estonian participants. Estonian marks a viewer's perspective on an event's result obligatorily via grammatical case on direct object nouns: Objects undergoing a partial/full change in state in an event are marked with partitive/accusative case, respectively. Therefore, we hypothesized increased saliency of object states and event results in Estonian speakers, as compared to speakers of Dutch. Findings show (a) a general cognitive principle of attending carefully to endings of resultative events, implying cognitive saliency of object states in event processing; (b) a language‐specific boost on attention and memory of event results under verbal task demands in Estonian speakers. Results are discussed in relation to theories of event cognition, linguistic relativity, and thinking for speaking.
  • Schoffelen, J.-M., Oostenveld, R., Lam, N. H. L., Udden, J., Hulten, A., & Hagoort, P. (2019). A 204-subject multimodal neuroimaging dataset to study language processing. Scientific Data, 6(1): 17. doi:10.1038/s41597-019-0020-y.

    Abstract

    This dataset, colloquially known as the Mother Of Unification Studies (MOUS) dataset, contains multimodal neuroimaging data that has been acquired from 204 healthy human subjects. The neuroimaging protocol consisted of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to derive information at high spatial resolution about brain anatomy and structural connections, and functional data during task, and at rest. In addition, magnetoencephalography (MEG) was used to obtain high temporal resolution electrophysiological measurements during task, and at rest. All subjects performed a language task, during which they processed linguistic utterances that either consisted of normal or scrambled sentences. Half of the subjects were reading the stimuli, the other half listened to the stimuli. The resting state measurements consisted of 5 minutes eyes-open for the MEG and 7 minutes eyes-closed for fMRI. The neuroimaging data, as well as the information about the experimental events are shared according to the Brain Imaging Data Structure (BIDS) format. This unprecedented neuroimaging language data collection allows for the investigation of various aspects of the neurobiological correlates of language.
  • Schoot, L., Hagoort, P., & Segaert, K. (2019). Stronger syntactic alignment in the presence of an interlocutor. Frontiers in Psychology, 10: 685. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00685.

    Abstract

    Speakers are influenced by the linguistic context: hearing one syntactic alternative leads to an increased chance that the speaker will repeat this structure in the subsequent utterance (i.e., syntactic priming, or structural persistence). Top-down influences, such as whether a conversation partner (or, interlocutor) is present, may modulate the degree to which syntactic priming occurs. In the current study, we indeed show that the magnitude of syntactic alignment increases when speakers are interacting with an interlocutor as opposed to doing the experiment alone. The structural persistence effect for passive sentences is stronger in the presence of an interlocutor than when no interlocutor is present (i.e., when the participant is primed by a recording). We did not find evidence, however, that a speaker’s syntactic priming magnitude is influenced by the degree of their conversation partner’s priming magnitude. Together, these results support a mediated account of syntactic priming, in which syntactic choices are not only affected by preceding linguistic input, but also by top-down influences, such as the speakers’ communicative intent.
  • Schubotz, L., Ozyurek, A., & Holler, J. (2019). Age-related differences in multimodal recipient design: Younger, but not older adults, adapt speech and co-speech gestures to common ground. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 34(2), 254-271. doi:10.1080/23273798.2018.1527377.

    Abstract

    Speakers can adapt their speech and co-speech gestures based on knowledge shared with an addressee (common ground-based recipient design). Here, we investigate whether these adaptations are modulated by the speaker’s age and cognitive abilities. Younger and older participants narrated six short comic stories to a same-aged addressee. Half of each story was known to both participants, the other half only to the speaker. The two age groups did not differ in terms of the number of words and narrative events mentioned per narration, or in terms of gesture frequency, gesture rate, or percentage of events expressed multimodally. However, only the younger participants reduced the amount of verbal and gestural information when narrating mutually known as opposed to novel story content. Age-related differences in cognitive abilities did not predict these differences in common ground-based recipient design. The older participants’ communicative behaviour may therefore also reflect differences in social or pragmatic goals.

    Additional information

    plcp_a_1527377_sm4510.pdf
  • Seymour, R. A., Rippon, G., Goordin-Williams, G., Schoffelen, J.-M., & Kessler, K. (2019). Dysregulated oscillatory connectivity in thevisual system in autism spectrum disorder. Brain, 142(10), 3294-3305. doi:10.1093/brain/awz214.

    Abstract

    Autism spectrum disorder is increasingly associated with atypical perceptual and sensory symptoms. Here we explore the hypothesis that aberrant sensory processing in autism spectrum disorder could be linked to atypical intra- (local) and interregional (global) brain connectivity. To elucidate oscillatory dynamics and connectivity in the visual domain we used magnetoencephalography and a simple visual grating paradigm with a group of 18 adolescent autistic participants and 18 typically developing control subjects. Both groups showed similar increases in gamma (40–80 Hz) and decreases in alpha (8–13 Hz) frequency power in occipital cortex. However, systematic group differences emerged when analysing intra- and interregional connectivity in detail. First, directed connectivity was estimated using non-parametric Granger causality between visual areas V1 and V4. Feedforward V1-to-V4 connectivity, mediated by gamma oscillations, was equivalent between autism spectrum disorder and control groups, but importantly, feedback V4-to-V1 connectivity, mediated by alpha (8–13 Hz) oscillations, was significantly reduced in the autism spectrum disorder group. This reduction was positively correlated with autistic quotient scores, consistent with an atypical visual hierarchy in autism, characterized by reduced top-down modulation of visual input via alpha-band oscillations. Second, at the local level in V1, coupling of alpha-phase to gamma amplitude (alpha-gamma phase amplitude coupling) was reduced in the autism spectrum disorder group. This implies dysregulated local visual processing, with gamma oscillations decoupled from patterns of wider alphaband phase synchrony (i.e. reduced phase amplitude coupling), possibly due to an excitation-inhibition imbalance. More generally, these results are in agreement with predictive coding accounts of neurotypical perception and indicate that visual processes in autism are less modulated by contextual feedback information.
  • Sharoh, D., Van Mourik, T., Bains, L. J., Segaert, K., Weber, K., Hagoort, P., & Norris, D. (2019). Laminar specific fMRI reveals directed interactions in distributed networks during language processing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116(42), 21185-21190. doi:10.1073/pnas.1907858116.

    Abstract

    Interactions between top-down and bottom-up information streams are integral to brain function but challenging to measure noninvasively. Laminar resolution, functional MRI (lfMRI) is sensitive to depth-dependent properties of the blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) response, which can be potentially related to top-down and bottom-up signal contributions. In this work, we used lfMRI to dissociate the top-down and bottom-up signal contributions to the left occipitotemporal sulcus (LOTS) during word reading. We further demonstrate that laminar resolution measurements could be used to identify condition-specific distributed networks on the basis of whole-brain connectivity patterns specific to the depth-dependent BOLD signal. The networks corresponded to top-down and bottom-up signal pathways targeting the LOTS during word reading. We show that reading increased the top-down BOLD signal observed in the deep layers of the LOTS and that this signal uniquely related to the BOLD response in other language-critical regions. These results demonstrate that lfMRI can reveal important patterns of activation that are obscured at standard resolution. In addition to differences in activation strength as a function of depth, we also show meaningful differences in the interaction between signals originating from different depths both within a region and with the rest of the brain. We thus show that lfMRI allows the noninvasive measurement of directed interaction between brain regions and is capable of resolving different connectivity patterns at submillimeter resolution, something previously considered to be exclusively in the domain of invasive recordings.
  • Sjerps, M. J., Fox, N. P., Johnson, K., & Chang, E. F. (2019). Speaker-normalized sound representations in the human auditory cortex. Nature Communications, 10: 2465. doi:10.1038/s41467-019-10365-z.

    Abstract

    The acoustic dimensions that distinguish speech sounds (like the vowel differences in “boot” and “boat”) also differentiate speakers’ voices. Therefore, listeners must normalize across speakers without losing linguistic information. Past behavioral work suggests an important role for auditory contrast enhancement in normalization: preceding context affects listeners’ perception of subsequent speech sounds. Here, using intracranial electrocorticography in humans, we investigate whether and how such context effects arise in auditory cortex. Participants identified speech sounds that were preceded by phrases from two different speakers whose voices differed along the same acoustic dimension as target words (the lowest resonance of the vocal tract). In every participant, target vowels evoke a speaker-dependent neural response that is consistent with the listener’s perception, and which follows from a contrast enhancement model. Auditory cortex processing thus displays a critical feature of normalization, allowing listeners to extract meaningful content from the voices of diverse speakers.

    Additional information

    41467_2019_10365_MOESM1_ESM.pdf
  • Sjerps, M. J., & Chang, E. F. (2019). The cortical processing of speech sounds in the temporal lobe. In P. Hagoort (Ed.), Human language: From genes and brain to behavior (pp. 361-379). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • De Swart, P., & Van Bergen, G. (2019). How animacy and verbal information influence V2 sentence processing: Evidence from eye movements. Open Linguistics, 5(1), 630-649. doi:10.1515/opli-2019-0035.

    Abstract

    There exists a clear association between animacy and the grammatical function of transitive subject. The grammar of some languages require the transitive subject to be high in animacy, or at least higher than the object. A similar animacy preference has been observed in processing studies in languages without such a categorical animacy effect. This animacy preference has been mainly established in structures in which either one or both arguments are provided before the verb. Our goal was to establish (i) whether this preference can already be observed before any argument is provided, and (ii) whether this preference is mediated by verbal information. To this end we exploited the V2 property of Dutch which allows the verb to precede its arguments. Using a visual-world eye-tracking paradigm we presented participants with V2 structures with either an auxiliary (e.g. Gisteren heeft X … ‘Yesterday, X has …’) or a lexical main verb (e.g. Gisteren motiveerde X … ‘Yesterday, X motivated …’) and we measured looks to the animate referent. The results indicate that the animacy preference can already be observed before arguments are presented and that the selectional restrictions of the verb mediate this bias, but do not override it completely.
  • Takashima, A., Bakker-Marshall, I., Van Hell, J. G., McQueen, J. M., & Janzen, G. (2019). Neural correlates of word learning in children. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 37: 100647. doi:10.1016/j.dcn.2019.100649.

    Abstract

    Memory representations of words are thought to undergo changes with consolidation: Episodic memories of novel words are transformed into lexical representations that interact with other words in the mental dictionary. Behavioral studies have shown that this lexical integration process is enhanced when there is more time for consolidation. Neuroimaging studies have further revealed that novel word representations are initially represented in a hippocampally-centered system, whereas left posterior middle temporal cortex activation increases with lexicalization. In this study, we measured behavioral and brain responses to newly-learned words in children. Two groups of Dutch children, aged between 8-10 and 14-16 years, were trained on 30 novel Japanese words depicting novel concepts. Children were tested on word-forms, word-meanings, and the novel words’ influence on existing word processing immediately after training, and again after a week. In line with the adult findings, hippocampal involvement decreased with time. Lexical integration, however, was not observed immediately or after a week, neither behaviorally nor neurally. It appears that time alone is not always sufficient for lexical integration to occur. We suggest that other factors (e.g., the novelty of the concepts and familiarity with the language the words are derived from) might also influence the integration process.

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  • Takashima, A., & Verhoeven, L. (2019). Radical repetition effects in beginning learners of Chinese as a foreign language reading. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 50, 71-81. doi:10.1016/j.jneuroling.2018.03.001.

    Abstract

    The aim of the present study was to examine whether repetition of radicals during training of Chinese characters leads to better word acquisition performance in beginning learners of Chinese as a foreign language. Thirty Dutch university students were trained on 36 Chinese one-character words for their pronunciations and meanings. They were also exposed to the specifics of the radicals, that is, for phonetic radicals, the associated pronunciation was explained, and for semantic radicals the associated categorical meanings were explained. Results showed that repeated exposure to phonetic and semantic radicals through character pronunciation and meaning trainings indeed induced better understanding of those radicals that were shared among different characters. Furthermore, characters in the training set that shared phonetic radicals were pronounced better than those that did not. Repetition of semantic radicals across different characters, however, hindered the learning of exact meanings. Students generally confused the meanings of other characters that shared the semantic radical. The study shows that in the initial stage of learning, overlapping information of the shared radicals are effectively learned. Acquisition of the specifics of individual characters, however, requires more training.

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  • Udden, J., Hulten, A., Bendt, K., Mineroff, Z., Kucera, K. S., Vino, A., Fedorenko, E., Hagoort, P., & Fisher, S. E. (2019). Towards robust functional neuroimaging genetics of cognition. Journal of Neuroscience, 39(44), 8778-8787. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0888-19.2019.

    Abstract

    A commonly held assumption in cognitive neuroscience is that, because measures of human brain function are closer to underlying biology than distal indices of behavior/cognition, they hold more promise for uncovering genetic pathways. Supporting this view is an influential fMRI-based study of sentence reading/listening by Pinel et al. (2012), who reported that common DNA variants in specific candidate genes were associated with altered neural activation in language-related regions of healthy individuals that carried them. In particular, different single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of FOXP2 correlated with variation in task-based activation in left inferior frontal and precentral gyri, whereas a SNP at the KIAA0319/TTRAP/THEM2 locus was associated with variable functional asymmetry of the superior temporal sulcus. Here, we directly test each claim using a closely matched neuroimaging genetics approach in independent cohorts comprising 427 participants, four times larger than the original study of 94 participants. Despite demonstrating power to detect associations with substantially smaller effect sizes than those of the original report, we do not replicate any of the reported associations. Moreover, formal Bayesian analyses reveal substantial to strong evidence in support of the null hypothesis (no effect). We highlight key aspects of the original investigation, common to functional neuroimaging genetics studies, which could have yielded elevated false-positive rates. Genetic accounts of individual differences in cognitive functional neuroimaging are likely to be as complex as behavioral/cognitive tests, involving many common genetic variants, each of tiny effect. Reliable identification of true biological signals requires large sample sizes, power calculations, and validation in independent cohorts with equivalent paradigms. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT A pervasive idea in neuroscience is that neuroimaging-based measures of brain function, being closer to underlying neurobiology, are more amenable for uncovering links to genetics. This is a core assumption of prominent studies that associate common DNA variants with altered activations in task-based fMRI, despite using samples (10–100 people) that lack power for detecting the tiny effect sizes typical of genetically complex traits. Here, we test central findings from one of the most influential prior studies. Using matching paradigms and substantially larger samples, coupled to power calculations and formal Bayesian statistics, our data strongly refute the original findings. We demonstrate that neuroimaging genetics with task-based fMRI should be subject to the same rigorous standards as studies of other complex traits.
  • Van Berkum, J. J. A., & Nieuwland, M. S. (2019). A cognitive neuroscience perspective on language comprehension in context. In P. Hagoort (Ed.), Human language: From genes and brain to behavior (pp. 429-442). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Van den Broek, G. S. E., Segers, E., Van Rijn, H., Takashima, A., & Verhoeven, L. (2019). Effects of elaborate feedback during practice tests: Costs and benefits of retrieval prompts. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 25(4), 588-601. doi:10.1037/xap0000212.

    Abstract

    This study explores the effect of feedback with hints on students’ recall of words. In three classroom experiments, high school students individually practiced vocabulary words through computerized retrieval practice with either standard show-answer feedback (display of answer) or hints feedback after incorrect responses. Hints feedback gave students a second chance to find the correct response using orthographic (Experiment 1), mnemonic (Experiment 2), or cross-language hints (Experiment 3). During practice, hints led to a shift of practice time from further repetitions to longer feedback processing but did not reduce (repeated) errors. There was no effect of feedback on later recall except when the hints from practice were also available on the test, indicating limited transfer of practice with hints to later recall without hints (in Experiments 1 and 2). Overall, hints feedback was not preferable over show-answer feedback. The common notion that hints are beneficial may not hold when the total practice time is limited.
  • Van Bergen, G., Flecken, M., & Wu, R. (2019). Rapid target selection of object categories based on verbs: Implications for language-categorization interactions. Psychophysiology, 56(9): e13395. doi:10.1111/psyp.13395.

    Abstract

    Although much is known about how nouns facilitate object categorization, very little is known about how verbs (e.g., posture verbs such as stand or lie) facilitate object categorization. Native Dutch speakers are a unique population to investigate this issue with because the configurational categories distinguished by staan (to stand) and liggen (to lie) are inherent in everyday Dutch language. Using an ERP component (N2pc), four experiments demonstrate that selection of posture verb categories is rapid (between 220–320 ms). The effect was attenuated, though present, when removing the perceptual distinction between categories. A similar attenuated effect was obtained in native English speakers, where the category distinction is less familiar, and when category labels were implicit for native Dutch speakers. Our results are among the first to demonstrate that category search based on verbs can be rapid, although extensive linguistic experience and explicit labels may not be necessary to facilitate categorization in this case.

    Additional information

    psyp13395-sup-0001-appendixs1.pdf
  • Van Es, M. W. J., & Schoffelen, J.-M. (2019). Stimulus-induced gamma power predicts the amplitude of the subsequent visual evoked response. NeuroImage, 186, 703-712. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2018.11.029.

    Abstract

    The efficiency of neuronal information transfer in activated brain networks may affect behavioral performance. Gamma-band synchronization has been proposed to be a mechanism that facilitates neuronal processing of behaviorally relevant stimuli. In line with this, it has been shown that strong gamma-band activity in visual cortical areas leads to faster responses to a visual go cue. We investigated whether there are directly observable consequences of trial-by-trial fluctuations in non-invasively observed gamma-band activity on the neuronal response. Specifically, we hypothesized that the amplitude of the visual evoked response to a go cue can be predicted by gamma power in the visual system, in the window preceding the evoked response. Thirty-three human subjects (22 female) performed a visual speeded response task while their magnetoencephalogram (MEG) was recorded. The participants had to respond to a pattern reversal of a concentric moving grating. We estimated single trial stimulus-induced visual cortical gamma power, and correlated this with the estimated single trial amplitude of the most prominent event-related field (ERF) peak within the first 100 ms after the pattern reversal. In parieto-occipital cortical areas, the amplitude of the ERF correlated positively with gamma power, and correlated negatively with reaction times. No effects were observed for the alpha and beta frequency bands, despite clear stimulus onset induced modulation at those frequencies. These results support a mechanistic model, in which gamma-band synchronization enhances the neuronal gain to relevant visual input, thus leading to more efficient downstream processing and to faster responses.
  • Varma, S., Takashima, A., Fu, L., & Kessels, R. P. C. (2019). Mindwandering propensity modulates episodic memory consolidation. Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, 31(11), 1601-1607. doi:10.1007/s40520-019-01251-1.

    Abstract

    Research into strategies that can combat episodic memory decline in healthy older adults has gained widespread attention over the years. Evidence suggests that a short period of rest immediately after learning can enhance memory consolidation, as compared to engaging in cognitive tasks. However, a recent study in younger adults has shown that post-encoding engagement in a working memory task leads to the same degree of memory consolidation as from post-encoding rest. Here, we tested whether this finding can be extended to older adults. Using a delayed recognition test, we compared the memory consolidation of word–picture pairs learned prior to 9 min of rest or a 2-Back working memory task, and examined its relationship with executive functioning and mindwandering propensity. Our results show that (1) similar to younger adults, memory for the word–picture associations did not differ when encoding was followed by post-encoding rest or 2-Back task and (2) older adults with higher mindwandering propensity retained more word–picture associations encoded prior to rest relative to those encoded prior to the 2-Back task, whereas participants with lower mindwandering propensity had better memory performance for the pairs encoded prior to the 2-Back task. Overall, our results indicate that the degree of episodic memory consolidation during both active and passive post-encoding periods depends on individual mindwandering tendency.

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    Supplementary material
  • Warren, C. M., Tona, K. D., Ouwekerk, L., Van Paridon, J., Poletiek, F. H., Bosch, J. A., & Nieuwenhuis, S. (2019). The neuromodulatory and hormonal effects of transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation as evidenced by salivary alpha amylase, salivary cortisol, pupil diameter, and the P3 event-related potential. Brain Stimulation, 12(3), 635-642. doi:10.1016/j.brs.2018.12.224.

    Abstract

    Background Transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation (tVNS) is a new, non-invasive technique being investigated as an intervention for a variety of clinical disorders, including epilepsy and depression. It is thought to exert its therapeutic effect by increasing central norepinephrine (NE) activity, but the evidence supporting this notion is limited. Objective In order to test for an impact of tVNS on psychophysiological and hormonal indices of noradrenergic function, we applied tVNS in concert with assessment of salivary alpha amylase (SAA) and cortisol, pupil size, and electroencephalograph (EEG) recordings. Methods Across three experiments, we applied real and sham tVNS to 61 healthy participants while they performed a set of simple stimulus-discrimination tasks. Before and after the task, as well as during one break, participants provided saliva samples and had their pupil size recorded. EEG was recorded throughout the task. The target for tVNS was the cymba conchae, which is heavily innervated by the auricular branch of the vagus nerve. Sham stimulation was applied to the ear lobe. Results P3 amplitude was not affected by tVNS (Experiment 1A: N=24; Experiment 1B: N=20; Bayes factor supporting null model=4.53), nor was pupil size (Experiment 2: N=16; interaction of treatment and time: p=0.79). However, tVNS increased SAA (Experiments 1A and 2: N=25) and attenuated the decline of salivary cortisol compared to sham (Experiment 2: N=17), as indicated by significant interactions involving treatment and time (p=.023 and p=.040, respectively). Conclusion These findings suggest that tVNS modulates hormonal indices but not psychophysiological indices of noradrenergic function.
  • Weber, K., Christiansen, M., Indefrey, P., & Hagoort, P. (2019). Primed from the start: Syntactic priming during the first days of language learning. Language Learning, 69(1), 198-221. doi:10.1111/lang.12327.

    Abstract

    New linguistic information must be integrated into our existing language system. Using a novel experimental task that incorporates a syntactic priming paradigm into artificial language learning, we investigated how new grammatical regularities and words are learned. This innovation allowed us to control the language input the learner received, while the syntactic priming paradigm provided insight into the nature of the underlying syntactic processing machinery. The results of the present study pointed to facilitatory syntactic processing effects within the first days of learning: Syntactic and lexical priming effects revealed participants’ sensitivity to both novel words and word orders. This suggested that novel syntactic structures and their meaning (form–function mapping) can be acquired rapidly through incidental learning. More generally, our study indicated similar mechanisms for learning and processing in both artificial and natural languages, with implications for the relationship between first and second language learning.
  • Weber, K., Micheli, C., Ruigendijk, E., & Rieger, J. (2019). Sentence processing is modulated by the current linguistic environment and a priori information: An fMRI study. Brain and Behavior, 9(7): e01308. doi:10.1002/brb3.1308.

    Abstract

    Introduction Words are not processed in isolation but in rich contexts that are used to modulate and facilitate language comprehension. Here, we investigate distinct neural networks underlying two types of contexts, the current linguistic environment and verb‐based syntactic preferences. Methods We had two main manipulations. The first was the current linguistic environment, where the relative frequencies of two syntactic structures (prepositional object [PO] and double‐object [DO]) would either follow everyday linguistic experience or not. The second concerned the preference toward one or the other structure depending on the verb; learned in everyday language use and stored in memory. German participants were reading PO and DO sentences in German while brain activity was measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging. Results First, the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) showed a pattern of activation that integrated the current linguistic environment with everyday linguistic experience. When the input did not match everyday experience, the unexpected frequent structure showed higher activation in the ACC than the other conditions and more connectivity from the ACC to posterior parts of the language network. Second, verb‐based surprisal of seeing a structure given a verb (PO verb preference but DO structure presentation) resulted, within the language network (left inferior frontal and left middle/superior temporal gyrus) and the precuneus, in increased activation compared to a predictable verb‐structure pairing. Conclusion In conclusion, (1) beyond the canonical language network, brain areas engaged in prediction and error signaling, such as the ACC, might use the statistics of syntactic structures to modulate language processing, (2) the language network is directly engaged in processing verb preferences. These two networks show distinct influences on sentence processing.

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  • Zhu, Z., Bastiaansen, M. C. M., Hakun, J. G., Petersson, K. M., Wang, S., & Hagoort, P. (2019). Semantic unification modulates N400 and BOLD signal change in the brain: A simultaneous EEG-fMRI study. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 52: 100855. doi:10.1016/j.jneuroling.2019.100855.

    Abstract

    Semantic unification during sentence comprehension has been associated with amplitude change of the N400 in event-related potential (ERP) studies, and activation in the left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies. However, the specificity of this activation to semantic unification remains unknown. To more closely examine the brain processes involved in semantic unification, we employed simultaneous EEG-fMRI to time-lock the semantic unification related N400 change, and integrated trial-by-trial variation in both N400 and BOLD change beyond the condition-level BOLD change difference measured in traditional fMRI analyses. Participants read sentences in which semantic unification load was parametrically manipulated by varying cloze probability. Separately, ERP and fMRI results replicated previous findings, in that semantic unification load parametrically modulated the amplitude of N400 and cortical activation. Integrated EEG-fMRI analyses revealed a different pattern in which functional activity in the left IFG and bilateral supramarginal gyrus (SMG) was associated with N400 amplitude, with the left IFG activation and bilateral SMG activation being selective to the condition-level and trial-level of semantic unification load, respectively. By employing the EEG-fMRI integrated analyses, this study among the first sheds light on how to integrate trial-level variation in language comprehension.
  • Zuidema, W., & Fitz, H. (2019). Key issues and future directions: Models of human language and speech processing. In P. Hagoort (Ed.), Human language: From genes and brain to behavior (pp. 353-358). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Araújo, S., Faísca, L., Reis, A., Marques, J. F., & Petersson, K. M. (2016). Visual naming deficits in dyslexia: An ERP investigation of different processing domains. Neuropsychologia, 91, 61-76. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2016.07.007.

    Abstract

    Naming speed deficits are well documented in developmental dyslexia, expressed by slower naming times and more errors in response to familiar items. Here we used event-related potentials (ERPs) to examine at what processing level the deficits in dyslexia emerge during a discrete-naming task. Dyslexic and skilled adult control readers performed a primed object-naming task, in which the relationship between the prime and the target was manipulated along perceptual, semantic and phonological dimensions. A 3×2 design that crossed Relationship Type (Visual, Phonemic Onset, and Semantic) with Relatedness (Related and Unrelated) was used. An attenuated N/P190 – indexing early visual processing – and N300 – which index late visual processing – was observed to pictures preceded by perceptually related (vs. unrelated) primes in the control but not in the dyslexic group. These findings suggest suboptimal processing in early stages of object processing in dyslexia, when integration and mapping of perceptual information to a more form-specific percept in memory take place. On the other hand, both groups showed an N400 effect associated with semantically related pictures (vs. unrelated), taken to reflect intact integration of semantic similarities in both dyslexic and control readers. We also found an electrophysiological effect of phonological priming in the N400 range – that is, an attenuated N400 to objects preceded by phonemic related primes vs. unrelated – while it showed a more widespread distributed and more pronounced over the right hemisphere in the dyslexics. Topographic differences between groups might have originated from a word form encoding process with different characteristics in dyslexics compared to control readers.
  • Asaridou, S. S., Takashima, A., Dediu, D., Hagoort, P., & McQueen, J. M. (2016). Repetition suppression in the left inferior frontal gyrus predicts tone learning performance. Cerebral Cortex, 26(6), 2728-2742. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhv126.

    Abstract

    Do individuals differ in how efficiently they process non-native sounds? To what extent do these differences relate to individual variability in sound-learning aptitude? We addressed these questions by assessing the sound-learning abilities of Dutch native speakers as they were trained on non-native tone contrasts. We used fMRI repetition suppression to the non-native tones to measure participants' neuronal processing efficiency before and after training. Although all participants improved in tone identification with training, there was large individual variability in learning performance. A repetition suppression effect to tone was found in the bilateral inferior frontal gyri (IFGs) before training. No whole-brain effect was found after training; a region-of-interest analysis, however, showed that, after training, repetition suppression to tone in the left IFG correlated positively with learning. That is, individuals who were better in learning the non-native tones showed larger repetition suppression in this area. Crucially, this was true even before training. These findings add to existing evidence that the left IFG plays an important role in sound learning and indicate that individual differences in learning aptitude stem from differences in the neuronal efficiency with which non-native sounds are processed.
  • Backus, A., Schoffelen, J.-M., Szebényi, S., Hanslmayr, S., & Doeller, C. (2016). Hippocampal-prefrontal theta oscillations support memory integration. Current Biology, 26, 450-457. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2015.12.048.

    Abstract

    Integration of separate memories forms the basis of inferential reasoning - an essential cognitive process that enables complex behavior. Considerable evidence suggests that both hippocampus and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) play a crucial role in memory integration. Although previous studies indicate that theta oscillations facilitate memory processes, the electrophysiological mechanisms underlying memory integration remain elusive. To bridge this gap, we recorded magnetoencephalography data while participants performed an inference task and employed novel source reconstruction techniques to estimate oscillatory signals from the hippocampus. We found that hippocampal theta power during encoding predicts subsequent memory integration. Moreover, we observed increased theta coherence between hippocampus and mPFC. Our results suggest that integrated memory representations arise through hippocampal theta oscillations, possibly reflecting dynamic switching between encoding and retrieval states, and facilitating communication with mPFC. These findings have important implications for our understanding of memory-based decision making and knowledge acquisition
  • Bastos, A. M., & Schoffelen, J.-M. (2016). A tutorial review of functional connectivity analysis methods and their interpretational pitfalls. Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience, 9: 175. doi:10.3389/fnsys.2015.00175.

    Abstract

    Oscillatory neuronal activity may provide a mechanism for dynamic network coordination. Rhythmic neuronal interactions can be quantified using multiple metrics, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. This tutorial will review and summarize current analysis methods used in the field of invasive and non-invasive electrophysiology to study the dynamic connections between neuronal populations. First, we review metrics for functional connectivity, including coherence, phase synchronization, phase-slope index, and Granger causality, with the specific aim to provide an intuition for how these metrics work, as well as their quantitative definition. Next, we highlight a number of interpretational caveats and common pitfalls that can arise when performing functional connectivity analysis, including the common reference problem, the signal to noise ratio problem, the volume conduction problem, the common input problem, and the sample size bias problem. These pitfalls will be illustrated by presenting a set of MATLAB-scripts, which can be executed by the reader to simulate each of these potential problems. We discuss how these issues can be addressed using current methods.
  • Bramão, I., Reis, A., Petersson, K. M., & Faísca, L. (2016). Knowing that strawberries are red and seeing red strawberries: The interaction between surface colour and colour knowledge information. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 28(6), 641-657. doi:10.1080/20445911.2016.1182171.

    Abstract

    his study investigates the interaction between surface and colour knowledge information during object recognition. In two different experiments, participants were instructed to decide whether two presented stimuli belonged to the same object identity. On the non-matching trials, we manipulated the shape and colour knowledge information activated by the two stimuli by creating four different stimulus pairs: (1) similar in shape and colour (e.g. TOMATO–APPLE); (2) similar in shape and dissimilar in colour (e.g. TOMATO–COCONUT); (3) dissimilar in shape and similar in colour (e.g. TOMATO–CHILI PEPPER) and (4) dissimilar in both shape and colour (e.g. TOMATO–PEANUT). The object pictures were presented in typical and atypical colours and also in black-and-white. The interaction between surface and colour knowledge showed to be contingent upon shape information: while colour knowledge is more important for recognising structurally similar shaped objects, surface colour is more prominent for recognising structurally dissimilar shaped objects.
  • Broersma, M., Carter, D., & Acheson, D. J. (2016). Cognate costs in bilingual speech production: Evidence from language switching. Frontiers in Psychology, 7: 1461. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01461.

    Abstract

    This study investigates cross-language lexical competition in the bilingual mental lexicon. It provides evidence for the occurrence of inhibition as well as the commonly reported facilitation during the production of cognates (words with similar phonological form and meaning in two languages) in a mixed picture naming task by highly proficient Welsh-English bilinguals. Previous studies have typically found cognate facilitation. It has previously been proposed (with respect to non-cognates) that cross-language inhibition is limited to low-proficient bilinguals; therefore, we tested highly proficient, early bilinguals. In a mixed naming experiment (i.e., picture naming with language switching), 48 highly proficient, early Welsh-English bilinguals named pictures in Welsh and English, including cognate and non-cognate targets. Participants were English-dominant, Welsh-dominant, or had equal language dominance. The results showed evidence for cognate inhibition in two ways. First, both facilitation and inhibition were found on the cognate trials themselves, compared to non-cognate controls, modulated by the participants' language dominance. The English-dominant group showed cognate inhibition when naming in Welsh (and no difference between cognates and controls when naming in English), and the Welsh-dominant and equal dominance groups generally showed cognate facilitation. Second, cognate inhibition was found as a behavioral adaptation effect, with slower naming for non-cognate filler words in trials after cognates than after non-cognate controls. This effect was consistent across all language dominance groups and both target languages, suggesting that cognate production involved cognitive control even if this was not measurable in the cognate trials themselves. Finally, the results replicated patterns of symmetrical switch costs, as commonly reported for balanced bilinguals. We propose that cognate processing might be affected by two different processes, namely competition at the lexical-semantic level and facilitation at the word form level, and that facilitation at the word form level might (sometimes) outweigh any effects of inhibition at the lemma level. In sum, this study provides evidence that cognate naming can cause costs in addition to benefits. The finding of cognate inhibition, particularly for the highly proficient bilinguals tested, provides strong evidence for the occurrence of lexical competition across languages in the bilingual mental lexicon.
  • Chu, M., & Kita, S. (2016). Co-thought and Co-speech Gestures Are Generated by the Same Action Generation Process. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 42(2), 257-270. doi:10.1037/xlm0000168.

    Abstract

    People spontaneously gesture when they speak (co-speech gestures) and when they solve problems silently (co-thought gestures). In this study, we first explored the relationship between these 2 types of gestures and found that individuals who produced co-thought gestures more frequently also produced co-speech gestures more frequently (Experiments 1 and 2). This suggests that the 2 types of gestures are generated from the same process. We then investigated whether both types of gestures can be generated from the representational use of the action generation process that also generates purposeful actions that have a direct physical impact on the world, such as manipulating an object or locomotion (the action generation hypothesis). To this end, we examined the effect of object affordances on the production of both types of gestures (Experiments 3 and 4). We found that individuals produced co-thought and co-speech gestures more often when the stimulus objects afforded action (objects with a smooth surface) than when they did not (objects with a spiky surface). These results support the action generation hypothesis for representational gestures. However, our findings are incompatible with the hypothesis that co-speech representational gestures are solely generated from the speech production process (the speech production hypothesis).
  • Coulson, S., & Lai, V. T. (Eds.). (2016). The metaphorical brain [Research topic]. Lausanne: Frontiers Media. doi:10.3389/978-2-88919-772-9.

    Abstract

    This Frontiers Special Issue will synthesize current findings on the cognitive neuroscience of metaphor, provide a forum for voicing novel perspectives, and promote new insights into the metaphorical brain.
  • Dimitrova, D. V., Chu, M., Wang, L., Ozyurek, A., & Hagoort, P. (2016). Beat that word: How listeners integrate beat gesture and focus in multimodal speech discourse. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 28(9), 1255-1269. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_00963.

    Abstract

    Communication is facilitated when listeners allocate their attention to important information (focus) in the message, a process called "information structure." Linguistic cues like the preceding context and pitch accent help listeners to identify focused information. In multimodal communication, relevant information can be emphasized by nonverbal cues like beat gestures, which represent rhythmic nonmeaningful hand movements. Recent studies have found that linguistic and nonverbal attention cues are integrated independently in single sentences. However, it is possible that these two cues interact when information is embedded in context, because context allows listeners to predict what information is important. In an ERP study, we tested this hypothesis and asked listeners to view videos capturing a dialogue. In the critical sentence, focused and nonfocused words were accompanied by beat gestures, grooming hand movements, or no gestures. ERP results showed that focused words are processed more attentively than nonfocused words as reflected in an N1 and P300 component. Hand movements also captured attention and elicited a P300 component. Importantly, beat gesture and focus interacted in a late time window of 600-900 msec relative to target word onset, giving rise to a late positivity when nonfocused words were accompanied by beat gestures. Our results show that listeners integrate beat gesture with the focus of the message and that integration costs arise when beat gesture falls on nonfocused information. This suggests that beat gestures fulfill a unique focusing function in multimodal discourse processing and that they have to be integrated with the information structure of the message.
  • Francken, J. C. (2016). Viewing the world through language-tinted glasses: Elucidating the neural mechanisms of language-perception interactions. PhD Thesis, Radboud University, Nijmegen.
  • Frank, S. L., & Fitz, H. (2016). Reservoir computing and the Sooner-is-Better bottleneck [Commentary on Christiansen & Slater]. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 39: e73. doi:10.1017/S0140525X15000783.

    Abstract

    Prior language input is not lost but integrated with the current input. This principle is demonstrated by “reservoir computing”: Untrained recurrent neural networks project input sequences onto a random point in high-dimensional state space. Earlier inputs can be retrieved from this projection, albeit less reliably so as more input is received. The bottleneck is therefore not “Now-or-Never” but “Sooner-is-Better.
  • Gerwien, J., & Flecken, M. (2016). First things first? Top-down influences on event apprehension. In A. Papafragou, D. Grodner, D. Mirman, & J. Trueswell (Eds.), Proceedings of the 38th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2016) (pp. 2633-2638). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.

    Abstract

    Not much is known about event apprehension, the earliest stage of information processing in elicited language production studies, using pictorial stimuli. A reason for our lack of knowledge on this process is that apprehension happens very rapidly (<350 ms after stimulus onset, Griffin & Bock 2000), making it difficult to measure the process directly. To broaden our understanding of apprehension, we analyzed landing positions and onset latencies of first fixations on visual stimuli (pictures of real-world events) given short stimulus presentation times, presupposing that the first fixation directly results from information processing during apprehension
  • Gijssels, T., Staum Casasanto, L., Jasmin, K., Hagoort, P., & Casasanto, D. (2016). Speech accommodation without priming: The case of pitch. Discourse Processes, 53(4), 233-251. doi:10.1080/0163853X.2015.1023965.

    Abstract

    People often accommodate to each other's speech by aligning their linguistic production with their partner's. According to an influential theory, the Interactive Alignment Model (Pickering & Garrod, 2004), alignment is the result of priming. When people perceive an utterance, the corresponding linguistic representations are primed, and become easier to produce. Here we tested this theory by investigating whether pitch (F0) alignment shows two characteristic signatures of priming: dose dependence and persistence. In a virtual reality experiment, we manipulated the pitch of a virtual interlocutor's speech to find out (a.) whether participants accommodated to the agent's F0, (b.) whether the amount of accommodation increased with increasing exposure to the agent's speech, and (c.) whether changes to participants' F0 persisted beyond the conversation. Participants accommodated to the virtual interlocutor, but accommodation did not increase in strength over the conversation, and it disappeared immediately after the conversation ended. Results argue against a priming-based account of F0 accommodation, and indicate that an alternative mechanism is needed to explain alignment along continuous dimensions of language such as speech rate and pitch.
  • Hagoort, P. (2016). MUC (Memory, Unification, Control): A Model on the Neurobiology of Language Beyond Single Word Processing. In G. Hickok, & S. Small (Eds.), Neurobiology of language (pp. 339-347). Amsterdam: Elsever. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-407794-2.00028-6.

    Abstract

    A neurobiological model of language is discussed that overcomes the shortcomings of the classical Wernicke-Lichtheim-Geschwind model. It is based on a subdivision of language processing into three components: Memory, Unification, and Control. The functional components as well as the neurobiological underpinnings of the model are discussed. In addition, the need for extension beyond the classical core regions for language is shown. Attentional networks as well as networks for inferential processing are crucial to realize language comprehension beyond single word processing and beyond decoding propositional content.
  • Hagoort, P. (2016). Zij zijn ons brein. In J. Brockman (Ed.), Machines die denken: Invloedrijke denkers over de komst van kunstmatige intelligentie (pp. 184-186). Amsterdam: Maven Publishing.
  • Hartung, F., Burke, M., Hagoort, P., & Willems, R. M. (2016). Taking perspective: Personal pronouns affect experiential aspects of literary reading. PLoS One, 11(5): e0154732. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0154732.

    Abstract

    Personal pronouns have been shown to influence cognitive perspective taking during comprehension. Studies using single sentences found that 3rd person pronouns facilitate the construction of a mental model from an observer’s perspective, whereas 2nd person pronouns support an actor’s perspective. The direction of the effect for 1st person pronouns seems to depend on the situational context. In the present study, we investigated how personal pronouns influence discourse comprehension when people read fiction stories and if this has consequences for affective components like emotion during reading or appreciation of the story. We wanted to find out if personal pronouns affect immersion and arousal, as well as appreciation of fiction. In a natural reading paradigm, we measured electrodermal activity and story immersion, while participants read literary stories with 1st and 3rd person pronouns referring to the protagonist. In addition, participants rated and ranked the stories for appreciation. Our results show that stories with 1st person pronouns lead to higher immersion. Two factors—transportation into the story world and mental imagery during reading—in particular showed higher scores for 1st person as compared to 3rd person pronoun stories. In contrast, arousal as measured by electrodermal activity seemed tentatively higher for 3rd person pronoun stories. The two measures of appreciation were not affected by the pronoun manipulation. Our findings underscore the importance of perspective for language processing, and additionally show which aspects of the narrative experience are influenced by a change in perspective.
  • St. John-Saaltink, E. (2016). When the past influences the present: Modulations of the sensory response by prior knowledge and task set. PhD Thesis, Radboud University, Nijmegen.
  • Kösem, A., Basirat, A., Azizi, L., & van Wassenhove, V. (2016). High frequency neural activity predicts word parsing in ambiguous speech streams. Journal of Neurophysiology, 116(6), 2497-2512. doi:10.1152/jn.00074.2016.

    Abstract

    During speech listening, the brain parses a continuous acoustic stream of information into computational units (e.g. syllables or words) necessary for speech comprehension. Recent neuroscientific hypotheses propose that neural oscillations contribute to speech parsing, but whether they do so on the basis of acoustic cues (bottom-up acoustic parsing) or as a function of available linguistic representations (top-down linguistic parsing) is unknown. In this magnetoencephalography study, we contrasted acoustic and linguistic parsing using bistable speech sequences. While listening to the speech sequences, participants were asked to maintain one of the two possible speech percepts through volitional control. We predicted that the tracking of speech dynamics by neural oscillations would not only follow the acoustic properties but also shift in time according to the participant’s conscious speech percept. Our results show that the latency of high-frequency activity (specifically, beta and gamma bands) varied as a function of the perceptual report. In contrast, the phase of low-frequency oscillations was not strongly affected by top-down control. While changes in low-frequency neural oscillations were compatible with the encoding of pre-lexical segmentation cues, high-frequency activity specifically informed on an individual’s conscious speech percept.

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  • Kunert, R., Willems, R. M., & Hagoort, P. (2016). An independent psychometric evaluation of the PROMS measure of music perception skills. PLoS One, 11(7): e0159103. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0159103.

    Abstract

    The Profile of Music Perception Skills (PROMS) is a recently developed measure of perceptual music skills which has been shown to have promising psychometric properties. In this paper we extend the evaluation of its brief version to three kinds of validity using an individual difference approach. The brief PROMS displays good discriminant validity with working memory, given that it does not correlate with backward digit span (r = .04). Moreover, it shows promising criterion validity (association with musical training (r = .45), musicianship status (r = .48), and self-rated musical talent (r = .51)). Finally, its convergent validity, i.e. relation to an unrelated measure of music perception skills, was assessed by correlating the brief PROMS to harmonic closure judgment accuracy. Two independent samples point to good convergent validity of the brief PROMS (r = .36; r = .40). The same association is still significant in one of the samples when including self-reported music skill in a partial correlation (rpartial = .30; rpartial = .17). Overall, the results show that the brief version of the PROMS displays a very good pattern of construct validity. Especially its tuning subtest stands out as a valuable part for music skill evaluations in Western samples. We conclude by briefly discussing the choice faced by music cognition researchers between different musical aptitude measures of which the brief PROMS is a well evaluated example.
  • Kunert, R. (2016). Internal conceptual replications do not increase independent replication success. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 23(5), 1631-1638. doi:10.3758/s13423-016-1030-9.

    Abstract

    Recently, many psychological effects have been surprisingly difficult to reproduce. This article asks why, and investigates whether conceptually replicating an effect in the original publication is related to the success of independent, direct replications. Two prominent accounts of low reproducibility make different predictions in this respect. One account suggests that psychological phenomena are dependent on unknown contexts that are not reproduced in independent replication attempts. By this account, internal replications indicate that a finding is more robust and, thus, that it is easier to independently replicate it. An alternative account suggests that researchers employ questionable research practices (QRPs), which increase false positive rates. By this account, the success of internal replications may just be the result of QRPs and, thus, internal replications are not predictive of independent replication success. The data of a large reproducibility project support the QRP account: replicating an effect in the original publication is not related to independent replication success. Additional analyses reveal that internally replicated and internally unreplicated effects are not very different in terms of variables associated with replication success. Moreover, social psychological effects in particular appear to lack any benefit from internal replications. Overall, these results indicate that, in this dataset at least, the influence of QRPs is at the heart of failures to replicate psychological findings, especially in social psychology. Variable, unknown contexts appear to play only a relatively minor role. I recommend practical solutions for how QRPs can be avoided.

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  • Kunert, R., Willems, R. M., & Hagoort, P. (2016). Language influences music harmony perception: effects of shared syntactic integration resources beyond attention. Royal Society Open Science, 3(2): 150685. doi:10.1098/rsos.150685.

    Abstract

    Many studies have revealed shared music–language processing resources by finding an influence of music harmony manipulations on concurrent language processing. However, the nature of the shared resources has remained ambiguous. They have been argued to be syntax specific and thus due to shared syntactic integration resources. An alternative view regards them as related to general attention and, thus, not specific to syntax. The present experiments evaluated these accounts by investigating the influence of language on music. Participants were asked to provide closure judgements on harmonic sequences in order to assess the appropriateness of sequence endings. At the same time participants read syntactic garden-path sentences. Closure judgements revealed a change in harmonic processing as the result of reading a syntactically challenging word. We found no influence of an arithmetic control manipulation (experiment 1) or semantic garden-path sentences (experiment 2). Our results provide behavioural evidence for a specific influence of linguistic syntax processing on musical harmony judgements. A closer look reveals that the shared resources appear to be needed to hold a harmonic key online in some form of syntactic working memory or unification workspace related to the integration of chords and words. Overall, our results support the syntax specificity of shared music–language processing resources.
  • Lai, V. T., & Huettig, F. (2016). When prediction is fulfilled: Insight from emotion processing. Neuropsychologia, 85, 110-117. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2016.03.014.

    Abstract

    Research on prediction in language processing has focused predominantly on the function of predictive context and less on the potential contribution of the predicted word. The present study investigated how meaning that is not immediately prominent in the contents of predictions but is part of the predicted words influences sentence processing. We used emotional meaning to address this question. Participants read emotional and neutral words embedded in highly predictive and non-predictive sentential contexts, with the two sentential contexts rated similarly for their emotional ratings. Event Related Potential (ERP) effects of prediction and emotion both started at ~200 ms. Confirmed predictions elicited larger P200s than violated predictions when the target words were non-emotional (neutral), but such effect was absent when the target words were emotional. Likewise, emotional words elicited larger P200s than neutral words when the target words were non-predictive, but such effect were absent when the contexts were predictive. We conjecture that the prediction and emotion effects at ~200 ms may share similar neural process(es). We suggest that such process(es) could be affective, where confirmed predictions and word emotion give rise to ‘aha’ or reward feelings, and/or cognitive, where both prediction and word emotion quickly engage attention

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  • Lam, N. H. L., Schoffelen, J.-M., Udden, J., Hulten, A., & Hagoort, P. (2016). Neural activity during sentence processing as reflected in theta, alpha, beta and gamma oscillations. NeuroImage, 142(15), 43-54. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2016.03.007.

    Abstract

    We used magnetoencephalography (MEG) to explore the spatio-temporal dynamics of neural oscillations associated with sentence processing, in 102 participants. We quantified changes in oscillatory power as the sentence unfolded, and in response to individual words in the sentence. For words early in a sentence compared to those late in the same sentence, we observed differences in left temporal and frontal areas, and bilateral frontal and right parietal regions for the theta, alpha, and beta frequency bands. The neural response to words in a sentence differed from the response to words in scrambled sentences in left-lateralized theta, alpha, beta, and gamma. The theta band effects suggest that a sentential context facilitates lexical retrieval, and that this facilitation is stronger for words late in the sentence. Effects in the alpha and beta band may reflect the unification of semantic and syntactic information, and are suggestive of easier unification late in a sentence. The gamma oscillations are indicative of predicting the upcoming word during sentence processing. In conclusion, changes in oscillatory neuronal activity capture aspects of sentence processing. Our results support earlier claims that language (sentence) processing recruits areas distributed across both hemispheres, and extends beyond the classical language regions
  • Lartseva, A. (2016). Reading emotions: How people with Autism Spectrum Disorders process emotional language. PhD Thesis, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen.
  • Leonard, M., Baud, M., Sjerps, M. J., & Chang, E. (2016). Perceptual restoration of masked speech in human cortex. Nature Communications, 7: 13619. doi:10.1038/ncomms13619.

    Abstract

    Humans are adept at understanding speech despite the fact that our natural listening environment is often filled with interference. An example of this capacity is phoneme restoration, in which part of a word is completely replaced by noise, yet listeners report hearing the whole word. The neurological basis for this unconscious fill-in phenomenon is unknown, despite being a fundamental characteristic of human hearing. Here, using direct cortical recordings in humans, we demonstrate that missing speech is restored at the acoustic-phonetic level in bilateral auditory cortex, in real-time. This restoration is preceded by specific neural activity patterns in a separate language area, left frontal cortex, which predicts the word that participants later report hearing. These results demonstrate that during speech perception, missing acoustic content is synthesized online from the integration of incoming sensory cues and the internal neural dynamics that bias word-level expectation and prediction.

    Additional information

    ncomms13619-s1.pdf
  • Lewis, A. G., Schoffelen, J.-M., Schriefers, H., & Bastiaansen, M. C. M. (2016). A Predictive Coding Perspective on Beta Oscillations during Sentence-Level Language Comprehension. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 10: 85. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2016.00085.

    Abstract

    Oscillatory neural dynamics have been steadily receiving more attention as a robust and temporally precise signature of network activity related to language processing. We have recently proposed that oscillatory dynamics in the beta and gamma frequency ranges measured during sentence-level comprehension might be best explained from a predictive coding perspective. Under our proposal we related beta oscillations to both the maintenance/change of the neural network configuration responsible for the construction and representation of sentence-level meaning, and to top–down predictions about upcoming linguistic input based on that sentence-level meaning. Here we zoom in on these particular aspects of our proposal, and discuss both old and new supporting evidence. Finally, we present some preliminary magnetoencephalography data from an experiment comparing Dutch subject- and object-relative clauses that was specifically designed to test our predictive coding framework. Initial results support the first of the two suggested roles for beta oscillations in sentence-level language comprehension.
  • Lewis, A. G., Lemhӧfer, K., Schoffelen, J.-M., & Schriefers, H. (2016). Gender agreement violations modulate beta oscillatory dynamics during sentence comprehension: A comparison of second language learners and native speakers. Neuropsychologia, 89(1), 254-272. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2016.06.031.

    Abstract

    For native speakers, many studies suggest a link between oscillatory neural activity in the beta frequency range and syntactic processing. For late second language (L2) learners on the other hand, the extent to which the neural architecture supporting syntactic processing is similar to or different from that of native speakers is still unclear. In a series of four experiments, we used electroencephalography to investigate the link between beta oscillatory activity and the processing of grammatical gender agreement in Dutch determiner-noun pairs, for Dutch native speakers, and for German L2 learners of Dutch. In Experiment 1 we show that for native speakers, grammatical gender agreement violations are yet another among many syntactic factors that modulate beta oscillatory activity during sentence comprehension. Beta power is higher for grammatically acceptable target words than for those that mismatch in grammatical gender with their preceding determiner. In Experiment 2 we observed no such beta modulations for L2 learners, irrespective of whether trials were sorted according to objective or subjective syntactic correctness. Experiment 3 ruled out that the absence of a beta effect for the L2 learners in Experiment 2 was due to repetition of the target nouns in objectively correct and incorrect determiner-noun pairs. Finally, Experiment 4 showed that when L2 learners are required to explicitly focus on grammatical information, they show modulations of beta oscillatory activity, comparable to those of native speakers, but only when trials are sorted according to participants’ idiosyncratic lexical representations of the grammatical gender of target nouns. Together, these findings suggest that beta power in L2 learners is sensitive to violations of grammatical gender agreement, but only when the importance of grammatical information is highlighted, and only when participants' subjective lexical representations are taken into account.
  • Lockwood, G. (2016). Academic clickbait: Articles with positively-framed titles, interesting phrasing, and no wordplay get more attention online. The Winnower, 3: e146723.36330. doi:10.15200/winn.146723.36330.

    Abstract

    This article is about whether the factors which drive online sharing of non-scholarly content also apply to academic journal titles. It uses Altmetric scores as a measure of online attention to articles from Frontiers in Psychology published in 2013 and 2014. Article titles with result-oriented positive framing and more interesting phrasing receive higher Altmetric scores, i.e., get more online attention. Article titles with wordplay and longer article titles receive lower Altmetric scores. This suggests that the same factors that affect how widely non-scholarly content is shared extend to academia, which has implications for how academics can make their work more likely to have more impact.
  • Lockwood, G., Hagoort, P., & Dingemanse, M. (2016). How iconicity helps people learn new words: neural correlates and individual differences in sound-symbolic bootstrapping. Collabra, 2(1): 7. doi:10.1525/collabra.42.

    Abstract

    Sound symbolism is increasingly understood as involving iconicity, or perceptual analogies and cross-modal correspondences between form and meaning, but the search for its functional and neural correlates is ongoing. Here we study how people learn sound-symbolic words, using behavioural, electrophysiological and individual difference measures. Dutch participants learned Japanese ideophones —lexical sound-symbolic words— with a translation of either the real meaning (in which form and meaning show cross-modal correspondences) or the opposite meaning (in which form and meaning show cross-modal clashes). Participants were significantly better at identifying the words they learned in the real condition, correctly remembering the real word pairing 86.7% of the time, but the opposite word pairing only 71.3% of the time. Analysing event-related potentials (ERPs) during the test round showed that ideophones in the real condition elicited a greater P3 component and late positive complex than ideophones in the opposite condition. In a subsequent forced choice task, participants were asked to guess the real translation from two alternatives. They did this with 73.0% accuracy, well above chance level even for words they had encountered in the opposite condition, showing that people are generally sensitive to the sound-symbolic cues in ideophones. Individual difference measures showed that the ERP effect in the test round of the learning task was greater for participants who were more sensitive to sound symbolism in the forced choice task. The main driver of the difference was a lower amplitude of the P3 component in response to ideophones in the opposite condition, suggesting that people who are more sensitive to sound symbolism may have more difficulty to suppress conflicting cross-modal information. The findings provide new evidence that cross-modal correspondences between sound and meaning facilitate word learning, while cross-modal clashes make word learning harder, especially for people who are more sensitive to sound symbolism.

    Additional information

    https://osf.io/ema3t/
  • Lockwood, G., Dingemanse, M., & Hagoort, P. (2016). Sound-symbolism boosts novel word learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 42(8), 1274-1281. doi:10.1037/xlm0000235.

    Abstract

    The existence of sound-symbolism (or a non-arbitrary link between form and meaning) is well-attested. However, sound-symbolism has mostly been investigated with nonwords in forced choice tasks, neither of which are representative of natural language. This study uses ideophones, which are naturally occurring sound-symbolic words that depict sensory information, to investigate how sensitive Dutch speakers are to sound-symbolism in Japanese in a learning task. Participants were taught 2 sets of Japanese ideophones; 1 set with the ideophones’ real meanings in Dutch, the other set with their opposite meanings. In Experiment 1, participants learned the ideophones and their real meanings much better than the ideophones with their opposite meanings. Moreover, despite the learning rounds, participants were still able to guess the real meanings of the ideophones in a 2-alternative forced-choice test after they were informed of the manipulation. This shows that natural language sound-symbolism is robust beyond 2-alternative forced-choice paradigms and affects broader language processes such as word learning. In Experiment 2, participants learned regular Japanese adjectives with the same manipulation, and there was no difference between real and opposite conditions. This shows that natural language sound-symbolism is especially strong in ideophones, and that people learn words better when form and meaning match. The highlights of this study are as follows: (a) Dutch speakers learn real meanings of Japanese ideophones better than opposite meanings, (b) Dutch speakers accurately guess meanings of Japanese ideophones, (c) this sensitivity happens despite learning some opposite pairings, (d) no such learning effect exists for regular Japanese adjectives, and (e) this shows the importance of sound-symbolism in scaffolding language learning
  • Lockwood, G., Hagoort, P., & Dingemanse, M. (2016). Synthesized Size-Sound Sound Symbolism. In A. Papafragou, D. Grodner, D. Mirman, & J. Trueswell (Eds.), Proceedings of the 38th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2016) (pp. 1823-1828). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.

    Abstract

    Studies of sound symbolism have shown that people can associate sound and meaning in consistent ways when presented with maximally contrastive stimulus pairs of nonwords such as bouba/kiki (rounded/sharp) or mil/mal (small/big). Recent work has shown the effect extends to antonymic words from natural languages and has proposed a role for shared cross-modal correspondences in biasing form-to-meaning associations. An important open question is how the associations work, and particularly what the role is of sound-symbolic matches versus mismatches. We report on a learning task designed to distinguish between three existing theories by using a spectrum of sound-symbolically matching, mismatching, and neutral (neither matching nor mismatching) stimuli. Synthesized stimuli allow us to control for prosody, and the inclusion of a neutral condition allows a direct test of competing accounts. We find evidence for a sound-symbolic match boost, but not for a mismatch difficulty compared to the neutral condition.
  • Michalareas, G., Vezoli, J., Van Pelt, S., Schoffelen, J.-M., Kennedy, H., & Fries, P. (2016). Alpha-Beta and Gamma Rhythms Subserve Feedback and Feedforward Influences among Human Visual Cortical Areas. Neuron, 82(2), 384-397. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2015.12.018.

    Abstract

    Primate visual cortex is hierarchically organized. Bottom-up and top-down influences are exerted through distinct frequency channels, as was recently revealed in macaques by correlating inter-areal influences with laminar anatomical projection patterns. Because this anatomical data cannot be obtained in human subjects, we selected seven homologous macaque and human visual areas, and we correlated the macaque laminar projection patterns to human inter-areal directed influences as measured with magnetoencephalography. We show that influences along feedforward projections predominate in the gamma band, whereas influences along feedback projections predominate in the alpha-beta band. Rhythmic inter-areal influences constrain a functional hierarchy of the seven homologous human visual areas that is in close agreement with the respective macaque anatomical hierarchy. Rhythmic influences allow an extension of the hierarchy to 26 human visual areas including uniquely human brain areas. Hierarchical levels of ventral- and dorsal-stream visual areas are differentially affected by inter-areal influences in the alpha-beta band.
  • De Nooijer, J. A., & Willems, R. M. (2016). What can we learn about cognition from studying handedness? Insights from cognitive neuroscience. In F. Loffing, N. Hagemann, B. Strauss, & C. MacMahon (Eds.), Laterality in sports: Theories and applications (pp. 135-153). Amsterdam: Elsevier.

    Abstract

    Can studying left- and right-handers inform us about cognition? In this chapter, we give an overview of research showing that studying left- and right-handers is informative for understanding the way the brain is organized (i.e., lateralized), as there appear to be differences between left- and right-handers in this respect, but also on the behavioral level handedness studies can provide new insights. According to theories of embodied cognition, our body can influence cognition. Given that left- and right-handers use their bodies differently, this might reflect their performance on an array of cognitive tasks. Indeed, handedness can have an influence on, for instance, what side of space we judge as more positive, the way we gesture, how we remember things, and how we learn new words. Laterality research can, therefore, provide valuable information as to how we act and why
  • Peeters, D. (2016). Processing consequences of onomatopoeic iconicity in spoken language comprehension. In A. Papafragou, D. Grodner, D. Mirman, & J. Trueswell (Eds.), Proceedings of the 38th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2016) (pp. 1632-1647). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.

    Abstract

    Iconicity is a fundamental feature of human language. However its processing consequences at the behavioral and neural level in spoken word comprehension are not well understood. The current paper presents the behavioral and electrophysiological outcome of an auditory lexical decision task in which native speakers of Dutch listened to onomatopoeic words and matched control words while their electroencephalogram was recorded. Behaviorally, onomatopoeic words were processed as quickly and accurately as words with an arbitrary mapping between form and meaning. Event-related potentials time-locked to word onset revealed a significant decrease in negative amplitude in the N2 and N400 components and a late positivity for onomatopoeic words in comparison to the control words. These findings advance our understanding of the temporal dynamics of iconic form-meaning mapping in spoken word comprehension and suggest interplay between the neural representations of real-world sounds and spoken words.
  • Peeters, D., & Ozyurek, A. (2016). This and that revisited: A social and multimodal approach to spatial demonstratives. Frontiers in Psychology, 7: 222. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00222.
  • Poletiek, F. H., Fitz, H., & Bocanegra, B. R. (2016). What baboons can (not) tell us about natural language grammars. Cognition, 151, 108-112. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2015.04.016.

    Abstract

    Rey et al. (2012) present data from a study with baboons that they interpret in support of the idea that center-embedded structures in human language have their origin in low level memory mechanisms and associative learning. Critically, the authors claim that the baboons showed a behavioral preference that is consistent with center-embedded sequences over other types of sequences. We argue that the baboons’ response patterns suggest that two mechanisms are involved: first, they can be trained to associate a particular response with a particular stimulus, and, second, when faced with two conditioned stimuli in a row, they respond to the most recent one first, copying behavior they had been rewarded for during training. Although Rey et al. (2012) ‘experiment shows that the baboons’ behavior is driven by low level mechanisms, it is not clear how the animal behavior reported, bears on the phenomenon of Center Embedded structures in human syntax. Hence, (1) natural language syntax may indeed have been shaped by low level mechanisms, and (2) the baboons’ behavior is driven by low level stimulus response learning, as Rey et al. propose. But is the second evidence for the first? We will discuss in what ways this study can and cannot give evidential value for explaining the origin of Center Embedded recursion in human grammar. More generally, their study provokes an interesting reflection on the use of animal studies in order to understand features of the human linguistic system.
  • Schoot, L., Heyselaar, E., Hagoort, P., & Segaert, K. (2016). Does syntactic alignment effectively influence how speakers are perceived by their conversation partner. PLoS One, 11(4): e015352. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0153521.

    Abstract

    The way we talk can influence how we are perceived by others. Whereas previous studies have started to explore the influence of social goals on syntactic alignment, in the current study, we additionally investigated whether syntactic alignment effectively influences conversation partners’ perception of the speaker. To this end, we developed a novel paradigm in which we can measure the effect of social goals on the strength of syntactic alignment for one participant (primed participant), while simultaneously obtaining usable social opinions about them from their conversation partner (the evaluator). In Study 1, participants’ desire to be rated favorably by their partner was manipulated by assigning pairs to a Control (i.e., primed participants did not know they were being evaluated) or Evaluation context (i.e., primed participants knew they were being evaluated). Surprisingly, results showed no significant difference in the strength with which primed participants aligned their syntactic choices with their partners’ choices. In a follow-up study, we used a Directed Evaluation context (i.e., primed participants knew they were being evaluated and were explicitly instructed to make a positive impression). However, again, there was no evidence supporting the hypothesis that participants’ desire to impress their partner influences syntactic alignment. With respect to the influence of syntactic alignment on perceived likeability by the evaluator, a negative relationship was reported in Study 1: the more primed participants aligned their syntactic choices with their partner, the more that partner decreased their likeability rating after the experiment. However, this effect was not replicated in the Directed Evaluation context of Study 2. In other words, our results do not support the conclusion that speakers’ desire to be liked affects how much they align their syntactic choices with their partner, nor is there convincing evidence that there is a reliable relationship between syntactic alignment and perceived likeability.

    Additional information

    Data availability
  • Schoot, L., Hagoort, P., & Segaert, K. (2016). What can we learn from a two-brain approach to verbal interaction? Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 68, 454-459. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2016.06.009.

    Abstract

    Verbal interaction is one of the most frequent social interactions humans encounter on a daily basis. In the current paper, we zoom in on what the multi-brain approach has contributed, and can contribute in the future, to our understanding of the neural mechanisms supporting verbal interaction. Indeed, since verbal interaction can only exist between individuals, it seems intuitive to focus analyses on inter-individual neural markers, i.e. between-brain neural coupling. To date, however, there is a severe lack of theoretically-driven, testable hypotheses about what between-brain neural coupling actually reflects. In this paper, we develop a testable hypothesis in which between-pair variation in between-brain neural coupling is of key importance. Based on theoretical frameworks and empirical data, we argue that the level of between-brain neural coupling reflects speaker-listener alignment at different levels of linguistic and extra-linguistic representation. We discuss the possibility that between-brain neural coupling could inform us about the highest level of inter-speaker alignment: mutual understanding
  • Segaert, K., Wheeldon, L., & Hagoort, P. (2016). Unifying structural priming effects on syntactic choices and timing of sentence generation. Journal of Memory and Language, 91, 59-80. doi:10.1016/j.jml.2016.03.011.

    Abstract

    We investigated whether structural priming of production latencies is sensitive to the same factors known to influence persistence of structural choices: structure preference, cumulativity and verb repetition. In two experiments, we found structural persistence only for passives (inverse preference effect) while priming effects on latencies were stronger for the actives (positive preference effect). We found structural persistence for passives to be influenced by immediate primes and long lasting cumulativity (all preceding primes) (Experiment 1), and to be boosted by verb repetition (Experiment 2). In latencies we found effects for actives were sensitive to long lasting cumulativity (Experiment 1). In Experiment 2, in latencies we found priming for actives overall, while for passives the priming effects emerged as the cumulative exposure increased but only when also aided by verb repetition. These findings are consistent with the Two-stage Competition model, an integrated model of structural priming effects for sentence choice and latency
  • Shitova, N., Roelofs, A., Schriefers, H., Bastiaansen, M., & Schoffelen, J.-M. (2016). Using Brain Potentials to Functionally Localise Stroop-Like Effects in Colour and Picture Naming: Perceptual Encoding versus Word Planning. PLoS One, 11(9): e0161052. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0161052.

    Abstract

    The colour-word Stroop task and the picture-word interference task (PWI) have been used extensively to study the functional processes underlying spoken word production. One of the consistent behavioural effects in both tasks is the Stroop-like effect: The reaction time (RT) is longer on incongruent trials than on congruent trials. The effect in the Stroop task is usually linked to word planning, whereas the effect in the PWI task is associated with either word planning or perceptual encoding. To adjudicate between the word planning and perceptual encoding accounts of the effect in PWI, we conducted an EEG experiment consisting of three tasks: a standard colour-word Stroop task (three colours), a standard PWI task (39 pictures), and a Stroop-like version of the PWI task (three pictures). Participants overtly named the colours and pictures while their EEG was recorded. A Stroop-like effect in RTs was observed in all three tasks. ERPs at centro-parietal sensors started to deflect negatively for incongruent relative to congruent stimuli around 350 ms after stimulus onset for the Stroop, Stroop-like PWI, and the Standard PWI tasks: an N400 effect. No early differences were found in the PWI tasks. The onset of the Stroop-like effect at about 350 ms in all three tasks links the effect to word planning rather than perceptual encoding, which has been estimated in the literature to be finished around 200–250 ms after stimulus onset. We conclude that the Stroop-like effect arises during word planning in both Stroop and PWI.
  • Silva, S., Petersson, K. M., & Castro, S. (2016). Rhythm in the brain: Is music special? In D. Da Silva Marques, & J. Avila-Toscano (Eds.), Neuroscience to neuropsychology: The study of the human brain (pp. 29-54). Barranquilla, Colombia: Ediciones CUR.

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