Sunday, December 4, 2016

Neurolinguistics of Language

Here's links to a bunch of recent articles in Journal of Neurolinguistics (H/t Dan Everett). Note that all are behind a paywall, but you can at least link through to see some abstracts.  I've listed two articles (plus abstracts) that caught my attention on a quick look:

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Volume 42, May 2017, Pages 49–62
A re-visit of three-stage humor processing with readers' surprise, comprehension, and funniness ratings: An ERP study


The roles of surprise, comprehension, and amusement levels in humor processing were examined.
Participants were divided into high/low score groups based on their behavioral ratings to verbal jokes.
Highly surprised, comprehended, and amused group elicited larger N400, P600, and LPP effects, respectively.
These intergroup variances supported the three-stage model of humor processing.


Humor processing can be divided into three sub-stages including incongruity detection, incongruity resolution, and elaboration (23 and 10). However, few studies have investigated the three-stage model of humor processing with readers' surprise, comprehensibility and funniness levels, and little discussion has been devoted to its biological underpinning. To verify the credibility of the three-stage model, electroencephalography (EEG) was utilized in corroboration with two types of stimuli including jokes and non-jokes in the present research. Participants were categorized into high vs. low score groups based on their rating scores of surprise, comprehension, and funniness to joke stimuli. The between-group analyses showed that compared with the less surprised group, highly surprised people elicited a primarily larger N400, which may suggest more incongruity perceived in reading jokes. Additionally, good comprehenders mainly elicited a larger P600, probably indicating a more successful resolution of detected incongruity in comparison with poor comprehenders. Finally, the highly amused group elicited a larger late positive potential (LPP) compared with the less amused group, which could reflect more affective elaboration of jokes. Participants' surprise, comprehension, and funniness levels had smaller impacts on other chief electrophysiological components, with the effects varying with different group contrasts. These results provided the evidence that different degrees of surprise, comprehensibility, and amusement to jokes would influence the three sub-stages (incongruity detection, incongruity resolution, and elaboration) respectively in humor processing. The current study thus generally re-verified the stability of the three-stage model through participants' behavioral ratings which had seldom been touched upon.

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Volume 40, November 2016, Pages 112–127
Individual differences in the bilingual brain: The role of language background and DRD2 genotype in verbal and non-verbal cognitive control


Bilingual language control is associated with activity in the inferior frontal gyrus.
Non-verbal control is associated with activity in the anterior cingulate cortex.
Specific genotypes predict fMRI activity during language control and task switching.
Bilingual experience predicts fMRI activity during language control and inhibition.


Bilingual language control may involve cognitive control, including inhibition and switching. These types of control have been previously associated with neural activity in the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). In previous studies, the DRD2 gene, related to dopamine availability in the striatum, has been found to play a role in neural activity during cognitive control tasks, with carriers of the gene’s A1 allele showing different patterns of activity in inferior frontal regions during cognitive control tasks than non-carriers. The current study sought to extend these findings to the domain of bilingual language control. Forty-nine Spanish-English bilinguals participated in this study by providing DNA samples through saliva, completing background questionnaires, and performing a language production task (picture-naming), a non-verbal inhibition task (Simon task), and a non-verbal switching task (shape-color task) in the fMRI scanner. The fMRI data were analyzed to determine whether variation in the genetic background or bilingual language background predicts neural activity in the IFG and ACC during these three tasks. Results indicate that genetic and language background variables predicted neural activity in the IFG during English picture naming. Variation in only the genetic background predicted neural activity in the ACC during the shape-color switching task; variation in only the language background predicted neural activity in the ACC and IFG during the Simon task. These results suggest that variation in the DRD2 gene should not be ignored when drawing conclusions about bilingual verbal and non-verbal cognitive control.

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