No title, no theme: The joined neural space between speakers and listeners during production and comprehension of multi-sentence discourse
Heidlmayr, K., Weber, K., Takashima, A., & Hagoort, P.
No title, no theme: The joined neural space between speakers and listeners during production and comprehension of multi-sentence discourse. Cortex. Advance online publication
Speakers and listeners usually interact in larger discourses than single words or even single sentences. The goal of the present study was to identify the neural bases reflecting how the mental representation of the situation denoted in a multi-sentence discourse (situation model) is constructed and shared between speakers and listeners. An fMRI study using a variant of the ambiguous text paradigm was designed. Speakers (n=15) produced ambiguous texts in the scanner and listeners (n=27) subsequently listened to these texts in different states of ambiguity: preceded by a highly informative, intermediately informative or no title at all. Conventional BOLD activation analyses in listeners, as well as inter-subject correlation analyses between the speakers’ and the listeners’ hemodynamic time courses were performed. Critically, only the processing of disambiguated, coherent discourse with an intelligible situation model representation involved (shared) activation in bilateral lateral parietal and medial prefrontal regions. This shared spatiotemporal pattern of brain activation between the speaker and the listener suggests that the process of memory retrieval in medial prefrontal regions and the binding of retrieved information in the lateral parietal cortex constitutes a core mechanism underlying the communication of complex conceptual representations.