Poster A45, Saturday, March 24, 1:30–3:30 pm, Exhibit Hall C
Comprehending events on the fly: inhibition and selection during language processing
Yanina Prystauka1,2, Zachary Ekves1,2, Gerry Altmann1,2; 1University of Connecticut, 2The Connecticut Institute for the Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Language comprehension entails keeping track of the entities introduced into the discourse and of any changes they undergo as a consequence of the events described by that language. Prior research (Hindy et al., 2012; Solomon et al., 2015) has shown that referring to entities that have undergone change (The chef will chop the onion. Then, she will weigh the onion) results in activation of stroop-sensitive voxels in prefrontal cortex, associated in other research with competition during selection of alternative incompatible interpretations (Thompson-Schill et al., 2005); selecting the appropriate state of the onion entails competition between the alternatives. This effect is absent when there is no change (The chef will weigh the onion…) or when the subsequent reference is to a different token of the same object type (The chef will chop the onion. Then, she will weigh another onion). However, due to the poor temporal resolution of fMRI, it is impossible to establish the dynamics of this effect and where in the sentence it occurs. To track this effect over time, dEEG was recorded as participants (N=22) read sentences word by word. We manipulated change (weigh/chop) and token (the/another onion). A time-frequency analysis, synchronized from the onset of the final determiner in the second sentence, revealed a significant increase in alpha (8-12 Hz) in sentences describing state change and referring back to the same token. This increase changed dynamically both in power and topology. This finding is consistent with literature relating alpha oscillations to cortical inhibitory processing and selection mechanisms.
Topic Area: LANGUAGE: Other