This proposal is aimed at expanding our knowledge of the psychological and physiological bases of meaning from scalp recordings of event-related potentials (ERPs) to words and pictures. Current evidence suggests that (1) the N400 indexes the influence of semantic context on word recognition: (2) P600 amplitude is sensitive to various structural manipulations; (3) the LAN is related to working memory usage; and (4) a variety of over-sentence slow potentials reflect aspects of sentential structure. The proposed experiments examine these hypothesis and use these components to address specific questions about comprehension. Specifically, the experiments focus on the degree to which sentence level semantics, pragmatics, and syntax dominate or can alter the processing of purely lexical relationships, how background knowledge is used in comprehension, and the extent to which pragmatic and lexical factors influence sentence parsing. Exp. 1 contrasts lexical versus sentence context effects in natural speech. Exp. 2 questions whether lexical/associative priming is mandatory and automatic or can be directed by the propositional content of the sentence in which the words occur. Exp. 3 examines the claim that lexical priming effects are not maintained across the clause boundary. Exp. 4-5 focus on how background knowledge in the form of word (4a) or picture (4a) categories and high level frames (5) in long term memory is used to comprehend sentences, including one-line jokes. Exp. 6 further probes the functional significance of the N400 by contrasting lexical semantic violations with those entailed in zeugma (e.g. Jim caught a fish and a cold last Thursday). Exp. 7-10 examine the role of various non-syntactic factors in sentence parsing, specifically the contributions of verb augment preferences and complementizer omission (7a), and verb argument preferences and noun plausibility (7b) on processing of sentences containing (reduced) relative clauses, and the effects of discourse factors on the processing of prepositional phrases in syntactically ambiguous contexts. Exp. 9-10 focus on the effects of the animacy of the initial noun (9) and pragmatic relations between both nouns in the processing of object relative (OR) constructions (10) on reading times as well as ERPs during reading and listening. Exp. 11 and 12 are proposals to build an database of word ERPs for exploratory analyses and to develop a procedure for recording saccades-related brain activity during free reading, respectively. Overall, they aim to determine how constraints at lexical, semantic, syntactic, and pragmatic levels of language interact in the brain to yield meaning.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
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Sensory Disorders and Language Study Section (CMS)
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Freund, Lisa S
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University of California San Diego
Schools of Arts and Sciences
La Jolla
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DeLong, Katherine A; Chan, Wen-Hsuan; Kutas, Marta (2018) Similar time courses for word form and meaning preactivation during sentence comprehension. Psychophysiology :e13312
Cohn, Neil; Paczynski, Martin; Kutas, Marta (2017) Not so secret agents: Event-related potentials to semantic roles in visual event comprehension. Brain Cogn 119:1-9
Manfredi, Mirella; Cohn, Neil; Kutas, Marta (2017) When a hit sounds like a kiss: An electrophysiological exploration of semantic processing in visual narrative. Brain Lang 169:28-38
Cohn, Neil; Kutas, Marta (2017) What is your neural function, visual narrative conjunction? Grammar, meaning, and fluency in sequential image processing. Cogn Res Princ Implic 2:27
DeLong, Katherine A; Kutas, Marta (2016) Hemispheric differences and similarities in comprehending more and less predictable sentences. Neuropsychologia 91:380-393
Metusalem, Ross; Kutas, Marta; Urbach, Thomas P et al. (2016) Hemispheric asymmetry in event knowledge activation during incremental language comprehension: A visual half-field ERP study. Neuropsychologia 84:252-71
Urbach, Thomas P; DeLong, Katherine A; Kutas, Marta (2015) Quantifiers are incrementally interpreted in context, more than less. J Mem Lang 83:79-96
Amsel, Ben D; DeLong, Katherine A; Kutas, Marta (2015) Close, but no garlic: Perceptuomotor and event knowledge activation during language comprehension. J Mem Lang 82:118-132
Smith, Nathaniel J; Kutas, Marta (2015) Regression-based estimation of ERP waveforms: II. Nonlinear effects, overlap correction, and practical considerations. Psychophysiology 52:169-81
Smith, Nathaniel J; Kutas, Marta (2015) Regression-based estimation of ERP waveforms: I. The rERP framework. Psychophysiology 52:157-68

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