Although we know a great deal about language comprehension, we know much less about how it is implemented in the brain. This proposal tests two hypotheses about how verbs and their arguments (e.g. their subjects and objects) are processed in the brain, which have important implications for which aspects of verb-argument processing might be preserved vs. impaired among adults with aphasia. This research has three aims: (1) To increase our understanding of the multiple brain systems that work together to accomplish verb-argument processing, and how their situation in the brain might relate to their different functions (coarse- vs. fine-grained processing;prediction vs. integration);(2) To test our hypotheses'predictions that adults with aphasia will be less likely to predict upcoming words in general, but will still generate a special class of argument-specific predictions if they have a undamaged right hemisphere (RH) or posterior left hemisphere (LH);and (3) To understand the consequences that distributing language processing across multiple brain systems has on verb-argument comprehension. The proposal includes five experiments. Experiment 1 will test the localization of the brain systems underlying the prediction of likely event participants and arguments by comparing the performance of participants with aphasia due to LH damage (either anterior only or extending to posterior areas) to that of unimpaired participants in a visual world experiment. Experiment 2 will use this paradigm to test whether predictions for arguments vs. likely event participants have different properties and are generated by different brain systems. Experiments 3 will monitor the eye movements of both unimpaired adults and adults with aphasia while they are reading to determine which brain systems are quickly sensitive to impossible arguments, in order to test our hypothesis that there are semantically vacuous argument-specific predictions that can be satisfied by any word that results in a possible event interpretation. Experiment 4 will use the same method to investigate whether there is competition between the output of the different brain systems recruited during verb-argument comprehension. Experiment 5 gathers fMRI data from unimpaired participants to provide converging evidence regarding the localization of predictions for arguments and likely event participants and the interpretation of verb- argument combinations. The overarching goal of this work is to improve our understanding of the neurolinguistic processes underlying verb-argument processing and their impairment following brain damage.

Public Health Relevance

This project tests competing hypotheses regarding the way verb-argument interpretation is accomplished by the brain, and how this is impaired in adults with aphasia. The results of this work will help resolve controversies about how people determine what sentences mean while they are reading/hearing them. It will also help guide new strategies for measuring and rehabilitating verb-related language problems in brain-based communication disorders.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel ()
Program Officer
Cooper, Judith
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Pittsburgh
Other Health Professions
Schools of Allied Health Profes
United States
Zip Code
Milburn, Evelyn; Warren, Tessa; Dickey, Michael Walsh (2018) Idiom comprehension in aphasia: Literal interference and abstract representation. J Neurolinguistics 47:16-36
Yang, Ying; Dickey, Michael Walsh; Fiez, Julie et al. (2017) Sensorimotor experience and verb-category mapping in human sensory, motor and parietal neurons. Cortex 92:304-319
Warren, Tessa; Dickey, Michael Walsh; Liburd, Teljer L (2017) A rational inference approach to group and individual-level sentence comprehension performance in aphasia. Cortex 92:19-31
Hayes, Rebecca A; Dickey, Michael Walsh; Warren, Tessa (2016) Looking for a Location: Dissociated Effects of Event-Related Plausibility and Verb-Argument Information on Predictive Processing in Aphasia. Am J Speech Lang Pathol 25:S758-S775
Milburn, Evelyn; Warren, Tessa; Dickey, Michael Walsh (2016) World knowledge affects prediction as quickly as selectional restrictions: Evidence from the visual world paradigm. Lang Cogn Neurosci 31:536-548
Warren, Tessa; Dickey, Michael Walsh; Lei, Chia-Ming (2016) Structural Prediction in Aphasia: Evidence from either. J Neurolinguistics 39:38-48
Tuninetti, Alba; Warren, Tessa; Tokowicz, Natasha (2015) Cue strength in second-language processing: an eye-tracking study. Q J Exp Psychol (Hove) 68:568-84
Dickey, Michael Walsh; Warren, Tessa (2015) The influence of event-related knowledge on verb-argument processing in aphasia. Neuropsychologia 67:63-81
Warren, Tessa; Milburn, Evelyn; Patson, Nikole D et al. (2015) Comprehending the impossible: what role do selectional restriction violations play? Lang Cogn Neurosci 30:932-939