Markus Ostarek

Publications

Displaying 1 - 15 of 15
  • Arunkumar, M., Van Paridon, J., Ostarek, M., & Huettig, F. (2021). Do illiterates have illusions? A conceptual (non)replication of Luria (1976). Journal of Cultural Cognitive Science, 5, 143-158. doi:10.1007/s41809-021-00080-x.

    Abstract

    Luria (1976) famously observed that people who never learnt to read and write do not perceive visual illusions. We conducted a conceptual replication of the Luria study of the effect of literacy on the processing of visual illusions. We designed two carefully controlled experiments with 161 participants with varying literacy levels ranging from complete illiterates to high literates in Chennai, India. Accuracy and reaction time in the identification of two types of visual shape and color illusions and the identification of appropriate control images were measured. Separate statistical analyses of Experiments 1 and 2 as well as pooled analyses of both experiments do not provide any support for the notion that literacy effects the perception of visual illusions. Our large sample, carefully controlled study strongly suggests that literacy does not meaningfully affect the identification of visual illusions and raises some questions about other reports about cultural effects on illusion perception.
  • Giglio, L., Ostarek, M., Weber, K., & Hagoort, P. (2021). Commonalities and asymmetries in the neurobiological infrastructure for language production and comprehension. Cerebral Cortex. Advance online publication. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhab287.

    Abstract

    The neurobiology of sentence production has been largely understudied compared to the neurobiology of sentence comprehension, due to difficulties with experimental control and motion-related artifacts in neuroimaging. We studied the neural response to constituents of increasing size and specifically focused on the similarities and differences in the production and comprehension of the same stimuli. Participants had to either produce or listen to stimuli in a gradient of constituent size based on a visual prompt. Larger constituent sizes engaged the left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG) and middle temporal gyrus (LMTG) extending to inferior parietal areas in both production and comprehension, confirming that the neural resources for syntactic encoding and decoding are largely overlapping. An ROI analysis in LIFG and LMTG also showed that production elicited larger responses to constituent size than comprehension and that the LMTG was more engaged in comprehension than production, while the LIFG was more engaged in production than comprehension. Finally, increasing constituent size was characterized by later BOLD peaks in comprehension but earlier peaks in production. These results show that syntactic encoding and parsing engage overlapping areas, but there are asymmetries in the engagement of the language network due to the specific requirements of production and comprehension.

    Additional information

    supplementary material
  • Ortega, G., & Ostarek, M. (2021). Evidence for visual simulation during sign language processing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Advance online publication. doi:10.1037/xge0001041.

    Abstract

    What are the mental processes that allow us to understand the meaning of words? A large body of evidence suggests that when we process speech, we engage a process of perceptual simulation whereby sensorimotor states are activated as a source of semantic information. But does the same process take place when words are expressed with the hands and perceived through the eyes? To date, it is not known whether perceptual simulation is also observed in sign languages, the manual-visual languages of deaf communities. Continuous flash suppression is a method that addresses this question by measuring the effect of language on detection sensitivity to images that are suppressed from awareness. In spoken languages, it has been reported that listening to a word (e.g., “bottle”) activates visual features of an object (e.g., the shape of a bottle), and this in turn facilitates image detection. An interesting but untested question is whether the same process takes place when deaf signers see signs. We found that processing signs boosted the detection of congruent images, making otherwise invisible pictures visible. A boost of visual processing was observed only for signers but not for hearing nonsigners, suggesting that the penetration of the visual system through signs requires a fully fledged manual language. Iconicity did not modulate the effect of signs on detection, neither in signers nor in hearing nonsigners. This suggests that visual simulation during language processing occurs regardless of language modality (sign vs. speech) or iconicity, pointing to a foundational role of simulation for language comprehension.

    Additional information

    supplemental material
  • Ostarek, M., & Bottini, R. (2021). Towards strong inference in research on embodiment – Possibilities and limitations of causal paradigms. Journal of Cognition, 4(1): 5. doi:10.5334/joc.139.

    Abstract

    A central question in the cognitive sciences is which role embodiment plays for high- level cognitive functions, such as conceptual processing. here, we propose that one reason why progress regarding this question has been slow is a lacking focus on what platt (1964) called “strong inference”. strong inference is possible when results from an experimental paradigm are not merely consistent with a hypothesis, but they provide decisive evidence for one particular hypothesis compared to competing hypotheses. We discuss how causal paradigms, which test the functional relevance of sensory-motor processes for high-level cognitive functions, can move the field forward. in particular, we explore how congenital sensory-motor disorders, acquired sensory-motor deficits, and interference paradigms with healthy participants can be utilized as an opportunity to better understand the role of sensory experience in conceptual processing. Whereas all three approaches can bring about valuable insights, we highlight that the study of congenitally and acquired sensorimotor disorders is particularly effective in the case of conceptual domains with strong unimodal basis (e.g., colors), whereas interference paradigms with healthy participants have a broader application, avoid many of the practical and interpretational limitations of patient studies, and allow a systematic and step-wise progressive inference approach to causal mechanisms.
  • Van Paridon, J., Ostarek, M., Arunkumar, M., & Huettig, F. (2021). Does neuronal recycling result in destructive competition? The influence of learning to read on the recognition of faces. Psychological Science, 32, 459-465. doi:10.1177/0956797620971652.

    Abstract

    Written language, a human cultural invention, is far too recent for dedicated neural infrastructure to have evolved in its service. Culturally newly acquired skills (e.g. reading) thus ‘recycle’ evolutionarily older circuits that originally evolved for different, but similar functions (e.g. visual object recognition). The destructive competition hypothesis predicts that this neuronal recycling has detrimental behavioral effects on the cognitive functions a cortical network originally evolved for. In a study with 97 literate, low-literate, and illiterate participants from the same socioeconomic background we find that even after adjusting for cognitive ability and test-taking familiarity, learning to read is associated with an increase, rather than a decrease, in object recognition abilities. These results are incompatible with the claim that neuronal recycling results in destructive competition and consistent with the possibility that learning to read instead fine-tunes general object recognition mechanisms, a hypothesis that needs further neuroscientific investigation.

    Additional information

    supplemental material
  • Kochari, A. R., & Ostarek, M. (2018). Introducing a replication-first rule for PhD projects (commmentary on Zwaan et al., ‘Making replication mainstream’). Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 41: e138. doi:10.1017/S0140525X18000730.

    Abstract

    Zwaan et al. mention that young researchers should conduct replications as a small part of their portfolio. We extend this proposal and suggest that conducting and reporting replications should become an integral part of PhD projects and be taken into account in their assessment. We discuss how this would help not only scientific advancement, but also PhD candidates’ careers.
  • Ostarek, M. (2018). Envisioning language: An exploration of perceptual processes in language comprehension. PhD Thesis, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen.
  • Ostarek, M., Ishag, I., Joosen, D., & Huettig, F. (2018). Saccade trajectories reveal dynamic interactions of semantic and spatial information during the processing of implicitly spatial words. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 44(10), 1658-1670. doi:10.1037/xlm0000536.

    Abstract

    Implicit up/down words, such as bird and foot, systematically influence performance on visual tasks involving immediately following targets in compatible vs. incompatible locations. Recent studies have observed that the semantic relation between prime words and target pictures can strongly influence the size and even the direction of the effect: Semantically related targets are processed faster in congruent vs. incongruent locations (location-specific priming), whereas unrelated targets are processed slower in congruent locations. Here, we used eye-tracking to investigate the moment-to-moment processes underlying this pattern. Our reaction time results for related targets replicated the location-specific priming effect and showed a trend towards interference for unrelated targets. We then used growth curve analysis to test how up/down words and their match vs. mismatch with immediately following targets in terms of semantics and vertical location influences concurrent saccadic eye movements. There was a strong main effect of spatial association on linear growth with up words biasing changes in y-coordinates over time upwards relative to down words (and vice versa). Similar to the RT data, this effect was strongest for semantically related targets and reversed for unrelated targets. Intriguingly, all conditions showed a bias in the congruent direction in the initial stage of the saccade. Then, at around halfway into the saccade the effect kept increasing in the semantically related condition, and reversed in the unrelated condition. These results suggest that online processing of up/down words triggers direction-specific oculomotor processes that are dynamically modulated by the semantic relation between prime words and targets.
  • Popov, V., Ostarek, M., & Tenison, C. (2018). Practices and pitfalls in inferring neural representations. NeuroImage, 174, 340-351. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2018.03.041.

    Abstract

    A key challenge for cognitive neuroscience is deciphering the representational schemes of the brain. Stimulus-feature-based encoding models are becoming increasingly popular for inferring the dimensions of neural representational spaces from stimulus-feature spaces. We argue that such inferences are not always valid because successful prediction can occur even if the two representational spaces use different, but correlated, representational schemes. We support this claim with three simulations in which we achieved high prediction accuracy despite systematic differences in the geometries and dimensions of the underlying representations. Detailed analysis of the encoding models' predictions showed systematic deviations from ground-truth, indicating that high prediction accuracy is insufficient for making representational inferences. This fallacy applies to the prediction of actual neural patterns from stimulus-feature spaces and we urge caution in inferring the nature of the neural code from such methods. We discuss ways to overcome these inferential limitations, including model comparison, absolute model performance, visualization techniques and attentional modulation.
  • Ostarek, M., & Vigliocco, G. (2017). Reading sky and seeing a cloud: On the relevance of events for perceptual simulation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 43(4), 579-590. doi:10.1037/xlm0000318.

    Abstract

    Previous research has shown that processing words with an up/down association (e.g., bird, foot) can influence the subsequent identification of visual targets in congruent location (at the top/bottom of the screen). However, as facilitation and interference were found under similar conditions, the nature of the underlying mechanisms remained unclear. We propose that word comprehension relies on the perceptual simulation of a prototypical event involving the entity denoted by a word in order to provide a general account of the different findings. In three experiments, participants had to discriminate between two target pictures appearing at the top or the bottom of the screen by pressing the left vs. right button. Immediately before the targets appeared, they saw an up/down word belonging to the target’s event, an up/down word unrelated to the target, or a spatially neutral control word. Prime words belonging to target event facilitated identification of targets at 250ms SOA (experiment 1), but only when presented in the vertical location where they are typically seen, indicating that targets were integrated in the simulations activated by the prime words. Moreover, at the same SOA, there was a robust facilitation effect for targets appearing in their typical location regardless of the prime type. However, when words were presented for 100ms (experiment 2) or 800ms (experiment 3), only a location non-specific priming effect was found, suggesting that the visual system was not activated. Implications for theories of semantic processing are discussed.
  • Ostarek, M., & Huettig, F. (2017). A task-dependent causal role for low-level visual processes in spoken word comprehension. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 43(8), 1215-1224. doi:10.1037/xlm0000375.

    Abstract

    It is well established that the comprehension of spoken words referring to object concepts relies on high-level visual areas in the ventral stream that build increasingly abstract representations. It is much less clear whether basic low-level visual representations are also involved. Here we asked in what task situations low-level visual representations contribute functionally to concrete word comprehension using an interference paradigm. We interfered with basic visual processing while participants performed a concreteness task (Experiment 1), a lexical decision task (Experiment 2), and a word class judgment task (Experiment 3). We found that visual noise interfered more with concrete vs. abstract word processing, but only when the task required visual information to be accessed. This suggests that basic visual processes can be causally involved in language comprehension, but that their recruitment is not automatic and rather depends on the type of information that is required in a given task situation.

    Additional information

    XLM-2016-2822_supp.docx
  • Ostarek, M., & Huettig, F. (2017). Spoken words can make the invisible visible – Testing the involvement of low-level visual representations in spoken word processing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 43, 499-508. doi:10.1037/xhp0000313.

    Abstract

    The notion that processing spoken (object) words involves activation of category-specific representations in visual cortex is a key prediction of modality-specific theories of representation that contrasts with theories assuming dedicated conceptual representational systems abstracted away from sensorimotor systems. In the present study, we investigated whether participants can detect otherwise invisible pictures of objects when they are presented with the corresponding spoken word shortly before the picture appears. Our results showed facilitated detection for congruent ("bottle" -> picture of a bottle) vs. incongruent ("bottle" -> picture of a banana) trials. A second experiment investigated the time-course of the effect by manipulating the timing of picture presentation relative to word onset and revealed that it arises as soon as 200-400ms after word onset and decays at 600ms after word onset. Together, these data strongly suggest that spoken words can rapidly activate low-level category-specific visual representations that affect the mere detection of a stimulus, i.e. what we see. More generally our findings fit best with the notion that spoken words activate modality-specific visual representations that are low-level enough to provide information related to a given token and at the same time abstract enough to be relevant not only for previously seen tokens but also for generalizing to novel exemplars one has never seen before.
  • Popov, V., Ostarek, M., & Tenison, C. (2017). Inferential Pitfalls in Decoding Neural Representations. In G. Gunzelmann, A. Howes, T. Tenbrink, & E. Davelaar (Eds.), Proceedings of the 39th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2017) (pp. 961-966). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.

    Abstract

    A key challenge for cognitive neuroscience is to decipher the representational schemes of the brain. A recent class of decoding algorithms for fMRI data, stimulus-feature-based encoding models, is becoming increasingly popular for inferring the dimensions of neural representational spaces from stimulus-feature spaces. We argue that such inferences are not always valid, because decoding can occur even if the neural representational space and the stimulus-feature space use different representational schemes. This can happen when there is a systematic mapping between them. In a simulation, we successfully decoded the binary representation of numbers from their decimal features. Since binary and decimal number systems use different representations, we cannot conclude that the binary representation encodes decimal features. The same argument applies to the decoding of neural patterns from stimulus-feature spaces and we urge caution in inferring the nature of the neural code from such methods. We discuss ways to overcome these inferential limitations.
  • Lima, C. F., Lavan, N., Evans, S., Agnew, Z., Halpern, A. R., Shanmugalingam, P., Meekings, S., Boebinger, D., Ostarek, M., McGettigan, C., Warren, J. E., & Scott, S. K. (2015). Feel the Noise: Relating individual differences in auditory imagery to the structure and function of sensorimotor systems. Cerebral Cortex., 2015(25), 4638-4650. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhv134.

    Abstract

    Humans can generate mental auditory images of voices or songs, sometimes perceiving them almost as vividly as perceptual experiences. The functional networks supporting auditory imagery have been described, but less is known about the systems associated with interindividual differences in auditory imagery. Combining voxel-based morphometry and fMRI, we examined the structural basis of interindividual differences in how auditory images are subjectively perceived, and explored associations between auditory imagery, sensory-based processing, and visual imagery. Vividness of auditory imagery correlated with gray matter volume in the supplementary motor area (SMA), parietal cortex, medial superior frontal gyrus, and middle frontal gyrus. An analysis of functional responses to different types of human vocalizations revealed that the SMA and parietal sites that predict imagery are also modulated by sound type. Using representational similarity analysis, we found that higher representational specificity of heard sounds in SMA predicts vividness of imagery, indicating a mechanistic link between sensory- and imagery-based processing in sensorimotor cortex. Vividness of imagery in the visual domain also correlated with SMA structure, and with auditory imagery scores. Altogether, these findings provide evidence for a signature of imagery in brain structure, and highlight a common role of perceptual–motor interactions for processing heard and internally generated auditory information.
  • Meekings, S., Boebinger, D., Evans, S., Lima, C. F., Chen, S., Ostarek, M., & Scott, S. K. (2015). Do we know what we’re saying? The roles of attention and sensory information during speech production. Psychological Science, 26(12), 1975-1977. doi:10.1177/0956797614563766.

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