According to the Structure Building Framework, the goal of comprehension is to build coherent mental representations or structures. At least three component processes are involved. First comprehenders lay foundations for their mental structures. Next, comprehenders develop mental structure by mapping on new information when that information coheres or relates to previous information. However, when the incoming information is less coherent or related, comprehenders employ a different process: They shift and build a new substructure. Thus, most representations comprise several branching substructures. The building blocks of these mental structures are considered memory nodes. Memory nodes are activated by incoming stimuli. Initial activation forms the foundation of mental structures. Once a foundation is laid, subsequent information is often mapped on because the more coherent the incoming information is with the previous information, the more likely it is to activate the same or connected memory nodes. In addition, once memory nodes are activated, they transmit processing signals to enhance (increase) or suppress (decrease) other nodes' activation. So, once memory nodes are activated, two mechanisms control their level of activation: suppression and enhancement. Memory nodes are enhanced when the information they represent is necessary for further structure building; they are suppressed when the information is no longer as necessary. The goal of the continued funding period is to test further the assumptions and implications of the Structure Building Framework, using two methodological approaches: laboratory-based behavioral experiments and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The behavioral experiments will investigate further the cognitive process of laying a foundation by asking whether the """"""""Advantage of First Mention"""""""" extends beyond accessibility to interpretation; the cognitive process of mapping will be investigated further by quantifying the demands of activating the knowledge that guides the mapping process; the cognitive process of shifting will be investigated further by identifying when comprehenders shift and attach new substructures; the cognitive mechanisms of suppression and enhancement will be investigated further by exploring whether two different constructions operate as cataphorical devices in English, and if so, whether the mechanisms of suppression and enhancement enable concepts marked by those cataphoric devices to gain a privileged status in comprehenders' mental structures. The fMRI experiments (block design and event-related) will extend the behavioral experiments by discovering a common neural circuitry underlying general comprehension (of three media), and by discovering how the general cognitive processes and mechanisms of laying a foundation, mapping, suppression, and enhancement are instantiated within the general neural circuit.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-BBBP-4 (01))
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Edwards, Emmeline
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University of Wisconsin Madison
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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