This goal of this project is to increase understanding of the basic cognitive processes by which words are recognized during reading and to increase understanding of the neural basis of those processes. With respect to cognitive processes, the project focuses on how lexical representations (at the level of word form and word meaning) interact with the mechanisms of perception, attention and motor control that are critical during skilled reading, and further how representations at those lexical levels interact with the higher-level meanings created during discourse processing. With respect to the instantiation in the brain of cognitive processes, the project focuses on substantial divergences in conclusions about the nature of lexical processing that have emerged from studies that have used eye-tracking as a behavioral measure and those that have used event-related brain potentials (ERPs). Evidence from these methods has supported very different conclusions about the speed of word recognition and about the degree to which the processing of a word integrates a broad range of different types of information. The project addresses these issues in experiments that closely coordinate the use of behavioral measures (eye-tracking during reading) and neurophysiologic measures (ERPs). The project aims to fill gaps in current understanding about the following issues: (1) lexical access during reading, (2) the interaction of word-form representations and discourse representations, and (3) the interaction of word- meaning representations and discourse representations. Achieving these aims will contribute to theories of human language by allowing integration of current understanding about word-level and sentence-level processes, and deepening understanding of cognitive and neural architectures in a central domain of language processing. In addition the project will address important gaps in methodological knowledge about the sensitivity of behavioral and neurophysiologic measures, and about how to combine behavioral and neural evidence about language processing. The project will also contribute to the diagnosis and remediation of impairments in language and memory by deepening understanding of the constructs and methods that are at the forefront of efforts to determine how cognitive processing is affected by normal aging, dementia and aphasia.

Public Health Relevance

The process of understanding language depends on memory to store information about partially-interpreted linguistic input, and long-term memory ability is greatly enhanced by the use of linguistic information to organize information that must be remembered. The results of the project will provide basic information about this interaction of language and memory, and in doing so will contribute to the development of better techniques for diagnosis and treatment (or remediation) of a range of problems that can occur in language abilities, including difficulty in learning to read, loss of language abilities due to neurological damage, and impairment of memory function due to aging or neurological damage.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Project (R01)
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Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-BBBP-D (02))
Program Officer
Miller, Brett
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University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
Schools of Arts and Sciences
Chapel Hill
United States
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Hoedemaker, Renske S; Gordon, Peter C (2014) It takes time to prime: semantic priming in the ocular lexical decision task. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 40:2179-97
Johns, Clinton L; Gordon, Peter C; Long, Debra L et al. (2014) Memory availability and referential access. Lang Cogn Process 29:60-87
Hoedemaker, Renske S; Gordon, Peter C (2014) Embodied language comprehension: encoding-based and goal-driven processes. J Exp Psychol Gen 143:914-29
Choi, Wonil; Gordon, Peter C (2014) Word skipping during sentence reading: effects of lexicality on parafoveal processing. Atten Percept Psychophys 76:201-13
Lowder, Matthew W; Gordon, Peter C (2014) Effects of animacy and noun-phrase relatedness on the processing of complex sentences. Mem Cognit 42:794-805
Huang, Yi Ting; Hopfinger, Joseph; Gordon, Peter C (2014) Distinguishing lexical- versus discourse-level processing using event-related potentials. Mem Cognit 42:275-91
Gordon, Peter C; Plummer, Patrick; Choi, Wonil (2013) See before you jump: full recognition of parafoveal words precedes skips during reading. J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn 39:633-41