Data_Sheet_1_Distinct Neural Processes for Memorizing Form and Meaning Within Sentences.pdf (75.13 kB)

Data_Sheet_1_Distinct Neural Processes for Memorizing Form and Meaning Within Sentences.pdf

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posted on 05.12.2019 by Matteo Mascelloni, Roberto Zamparelli, Francesco Vespignani, Thomas Gruber, Jutta L. Mueller

In order to memorize sentences we use both processes of language comprehension during encoding and processes of language production during maintenance. While the former processes are easily testable via controlled presentation of the input, the latter are more difficult to assess directly as language production is typically initiated and controlled internally. In the present event-related potential (ERP) study we track subvocal rehearsal of sentences, with the goal of studying the concomitant planning processes with the help of a silent cued-production task. Native German participants read different types of sentences word-by-word, then were prompted by a visual cue to silently repeat each individual word, in a rehearsal phase. In order to assess both local and global effects of sentence planning, we presented correct sentences, syntactically or semantically violated sentences, or random word order sequences. Semantic violations during reading elicited an N400 effect at the noun violating the selectional restrictions of the preceding verb. Syntactic violations, induced by a gender incongruency between determiner and noun, led to a P600 effect at the same position. Different ERP patterns occurred during the silent production phase. Here, semantically violated sentences elicited an early fronto-central negativity at the verb, while syntactically violated sentences elicited a late right-frontal positivity at the determiner. Random word order was accompanied by long-lasting slow waves during the production phase. The findings are consistent with models of hierarchical sentence planning and further indicate that the ongoing working memory processes are qualitatively distinct from comprehension mechanisms and neurophysiologically specific for syntactic and lexical-semantic level planning. In conclusion, active working memory maintenance of sentences is likely to comprise specific stages of sentence production that are indicated by ERP correlates of syntactic and semantic planning at the phrasal and clausal level respectively.