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When Elephants Fly: Differential Sensitivity of Right and Left Inferior Frontal Gyri to Discourse and World Knowledge
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (2009) 21 (12): 2358–2368.
Published: 01 December 2009
AbstractView article PDF
Both local discourse and world knowledge are known to influence sentence processing. We investigated how these two sources of information conspire in language comprehension. Two types of critical sentences, correct and world knowledge anomalies, were preceded by either a neutral or a local context. The latter made the world knowledge anomalies more acceptable or plausible. We predicted that the effect of world knowledge anomalies would be weaker for the local context. World knowledge effects have previously been observed in the left inferior frontal region (Brodmann's area 45/47). In the current study, an effect of world knowledge was present in this region in the neutral context. We also observed an effect in the right inferior frontal gyrus, which was more sensitive to the discourse manipulation than the left inferior frontal gyrus. In addition, the left angular gyrus reacted strongly to the degree of discourse coherence between the context and critical sentence. Overall, both world knowledge and the discourse context affect the process of meaning unification, but do so by recruiting partly different sets of brain areas.
Cathelijne M. J. Y. Tesink, Karl Magnus Petersson, Jos J. A. van Berkum, Daniëlle van den Brink, Jan K. Buitelaar ...
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (2009) 21 (11): 2085–2099.
Published: 01 November 2009
AbstractView article PDF
When interpreting a message, a listener takes into account several sources of linguistic and extralinguistic information. Here we focused on one particular form of extralinguistic information, certain speaker characteristics as conveyed by the voice. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we examined the neural structures involved in the unification of sentence meaning and voice-based inferences about the speaker's age, sex, or social background. We found enhanced activation in the inferior frontal gyrus bilaterally (BA 45/47) during listening to sentences whose meaning was incongruent with inferred speaker characteristics. Furthermore, our results showed an overlap in brain regions involved in unification of speaker-related information and those used for the unification of semantic and world knowledge information [inferior frontal gyrus bilaterally (BA 45/47) and left middle temporal gyrus (BA 21)]. These findings provide evidence for a shared neural unification system for linguistic and extralinguistic sources of information and extend the existing knowledge about the role of inferior frontal cortex as a crucial component for unification during language comprehension.
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (2004) 16 (7): 1289–1301.
Published: 01 September 2004
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The amygdala has been implicated in fundamental functions for the survival of the organism, such as fear and pain. In accord with this, several studies have shown increased amygdala activity during fear conditioning and the processing of fear-relevant material in human subjects. In contrast, functional neuroimaging studies of pain have shown a decreased amygdala activity. It has previously been proposed that the observed deactivations of the amygdala in these studies indicate a cognitive strategy to adapt to a distressful but in the experimental setting unavoidable painful event. In this positron emission tomography study, we show that a simple contextual manipulation, immediately preceding a painful stimulation, that increases the anticipated duration of the painful event leads to a decrease in amygdala activity and modulates the autonomic response during the noxious stimulation. On a behavioral level, 7 of the 10 subjects reported that they used coping strategies more intensely in this context. We suggest that the altered activity in the amygdala may be part of a mechanism to attenuate pain-related stress responses in a context that is perceived as being more aversive. The study also showed an increased activity in the rostral part of anterior cingulate cortex in the same context in which the amygdala activity decreased, further supporting the idea that this part of the cingulate cortex is involved in the modulation of emotional and pain networks.
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (2000) 12 (4): 691–703.
Published: 01 July 2000
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Predictions of the near future can optimize the accuracy and speed of sensory processing as well as of behavioral responses. Previous experience and contextual cues are essential elements in the generation of a subjective prediction. Using a blocked fMRI paradigm, we investigated the pattern of neural activation in anticipation of a sensory stimulus and during the processing of the somatosensory stimulus itself. Tickling was chosen as the somatosensory stimulus rather than simple touch in order to increase the probability to get a high degree of anticipation. The location and nature of the stimulus were well defined to the subject. The state of anticipation was initiated by attributing an uncertainty regarding the time of stimulus onset. The network of activation and deactivation during anticipation of the expected stimulus was similar to that engaged during the actual sensory stimulation. The areas that were activated during both states included the contralateral primary sensory cortex, bilateral areas in the inferior parietal lobules, the putative area SII, the right anterior cingulate cortex and areas in the right prefrontal cortex. Similarly, common decreases were observed in areas of sensorimotor cortex located outside the area representing the target of stimulus, i.e., areas that process information which is irrelevant to the attended process. The overlapping pattern of change, during the somatosensory stimulation and the anticipation, furthers the idea that predictions are subserved by a neuronal network similar to that which subserves the processing of actual sensory input. Moreover, this study indicates that activation of primary somatosensory cortex can be obtained without intra-modal sensory input. These findings suggest that anticipation may invoke a tonic top-down regulation of neural activity.
Language Processing Modulated by Literacy: A Network Analysis of Verbal Repetition in Literate and Illiterate Subjects
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (2000) 12 (3): 364–382.
Published: 01 May 2000
AbstractView article PDF
Previous behavioral and functional neuroimaging data indicate that certain aspects of phonological processing may not be acquired spontaneously, but are modulated by learning an alphabetic written language, that is, learning to read and write. It appears that learning an alphabetic written language modifies the auditory-verbal (spoken) language processing competence in a nontrivial way. We have previously suggested, based on behavioral and functional neuroimaging data, that auditory-verbal and written language interact not only during certain language tasks, but that learning and developing alphabetic written language capacities significantly modulates the spoken language system. Specifically, the acquisition of alphabetic orthographic knowledge has a modulatory influence on sublexical phonological processing and the awareness of sublexical phonological structure. We have suggested that developing an orthographic representation system for an alphabetic written language, and integrating a phonemegrapheme correspondence with an existing infrastructure for auditory-verbal language processing, will result in a modified language network. Specifically, we suggest that the parallel interactive processing characteristics of the underlying language-processing brain network differ in literate and illiterate subjects. Therefore, the pattern of interactions between the regions of a suitably defined large-scale functional-anatomical network for language processing will differ between literate and illiterate subjects during certain language tasks. In order to investigate this hypothesis further, we analyzed the observed covariance structure in a PET data set from a simple auditory-verbal repetition paradigm in literate and illiterate subjects, with a network approach based on structural equation modeling (SEM). Based on a simple network model for language processing, the results of the present network analysis indicate that the network interactions during word and pseudoword repetition in the illiterate group differ, while there were no significant differences in the literate group. The differences between the two tasks in the illiterate group may reflect differences in attentional modulation of the language network, executive aspects of verbal working memory and the articulatory organization of verbal output. There were no significant differences between the literate and illiterate group during word repetition. In contrast, the network interactions differed between the literate and illiterate group during pseudoword repetition. In addition to differences similar to those observed in the illiterate group between word and pseudoword repetition, there were differences related to the interactions of the phonological loop between the groups. In particular, these differences related to the interaction between Broca's area and the inferior parietal cortex as well as the posterior-midinsula bridge between Wernicke's and Broca's area. In conclusion, the results of this network analysis are consistent with our previously presented results and support the hypothesis that learning to read and write during childhood influences the functional architecture of the adult human brain. In particular, the basic auditory-verbal language network in the human brain is modified as a consequence of acquiring orthographic language skills.