Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Neural circuits used in processing basic linguistic phrases identified

Date:
March 1, 2011
Source:
New York University
Summary:
Researchers have isolated neural activity that reflects basic mechanisms used by the brain to combine elementary pieces of language in order to construct complex ideas.

New York University researchers have isolated neural activity that reflects basic mechanisms used by the brain to combine elementary pieces of language in order to construct complex ideas.

The study, which appears in the Journal of Neuroscience, was conducted by Douglas Bemis, a graduate student in NYU's Department of Psychology, and Liina Pylkkδnen, an associate professor in NYU's Department of Psychology and Department of Linguistics.

Researchers have long studied the neural regions that underlie the processing of complete sentences and other complex linguistic expressions. However, much less attention has been devoted to how we comprehend minimal language combinations, such as a simple two-word, adjective-noun phrase.

To better understand how the brain functions during such simple language processing, the researchers conducted an experiment using native English speakers in which subjects were shown simple nouns presented either by themselves or preceded by a simple adjective. The subjects' brain activity during the processing of the nouns was then gauged using magnetoencephalography (MEG), a technique that maps neural activity by recording magnetic fields produced by the electrical currents produced by our brain.

During the experiment, subjects were shown common nouns ("boat") that were either part of a simple noun phrase ("red boat") or preceded by an unrelated noun ("cup, boat") or non-pronouncable consonant string ("xhl boat"). By comparing neural activity generated during the phrases with the control conditions, the researchers were able to isolate brain activity that increased during basic combinatorial processing (i.e., the adjective and the noun) compared to when no linguistic combination was present. To ensure that the subjects were processing the words correctly, they had to assess whether a following colored shape (e.g., a red boat) matched the words they had just seen.

Surprisingly, the regions of the brain typically identified with the processing of complex linguistic expressions -- "Broca's" and "Wernicke's" areas -- appeared to play no role in the comprehension of such basic phrases.

Instead, the MEG results revealed increased activity in the left anterior temporal lobe (LATL), followed by increased activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) region of the brain during the processing of simple adjective-noun phrases. While these parts of the brain have previously been shown to be involved in the processing of more complex linguistic expressions, this evidence suggests that these regions play a pivotal role in the most fundamental aspects of language processing. This result, in conjunction with the absence of increased activity in Broca's and Wernicke's areas, indicates that traditional neural models of language processing must be expanded in order to encompass a wider network of brain areas than are typically included.

"Surprisingly, direct investigations into the neural underpinnings of basic combinatorial processing in language have been virtually nonexistent," the authors wrote. "This research introduces a powerful method for directly investigating these operations by allowing the linguistic expressions under consideration to be reduced to the absolute minimum: a simple adjective composed with a noun."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by New York University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

New York University. "Neural circuits used in processing basic linguistic phrases identified." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110228151752.htm>.
New York University. (2011, March 1). Neural circuits used in processing basic linguistic phrases identified. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110228151752.htm
New York University. "Neural circuits used in processing basic linguistic phrases identified." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110228151752.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) — The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) — A study by German researchers claims watching TV while you're stressed out can make you feel guilty and like a failure. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
China's Ageing Millions Look Forward to Bleak Future

China's Ageing Millions Look Forward to Bleak Future

AFP (July 24, 2014) — China's elderly population is expanding so quickly that children struggle to look after them, pushing them to do something unexpected in Chinese society- move their parents into a nursing home. Duration: 02:07 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Idaho Boy Helps Brother With Disabilities Complete Triathlon

Idaho Boy Helps Brother With Disabilities Complete Triathlon

Newsy (July 23, 2014) — An 8-year-old boy helped his younger brother, who has a rare genetic condition that's confined him to a wheelchair, finish a triathlon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:  

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile iPhone Android Web
          Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins