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Higher-order activity beyond the word level: Cortical dynamics of simple transitive sentence comprehension

Authors
Journal
Brain and Language
0093-934X
Publisher
Elsevier
Publication Date
Volume
92
Issue
3
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1016/j.bandl.2004.07.004
Keywords
  • Event-Related Potentials
  • Language
  • Sentence Processing
  • Thematic Role Assignment
  • Pca
  • Loreta
Disciplines
  • Biology
  • Computer Science
  • Linguistics

Abstract

Abstract Slow electrophysiological effects, which fluctuate throughout the course of a sentence, independent of transient responses to individual words, have been reported. However, this type of activity has scarcely been studied, and with only limited use of electrophysiological information, so that the brain areas in which these variations originate have not been clearly identified. To improve this state of affairs, a principal component analysis and a modern source analysis algorithm (LORETA) were applied to the slow activity underlying transitive sentence reading. Four components explained 97.3% of the variance. Of key interest was a slow variation that occurred throughout the entire sentence but peaked with the appearance of the verb. The main solution for this component was localized in prefrontal and temporal regions presumably involved in semantic sentence processing. This constitutes empirical evidence for cortical activity—related to semantic processes thought to be involved in thematic role assignment—developing throughout the sentence but presenting a conspicuous maximum with the appearance of the verb. This finding also highlights the central role of verb information in the understanding of transitive sentences.

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