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Poster C16, Thursday, November 9, 10:00 – 11:15 am, Harborview and Loch Raven Ballrooms

ERP correlates of syntactic processing in cochlear implant users.

Luca Artesini1, Mara Dighero1, Valeria Giannelli1, Debora Musola4, Francesco Vespignani2, Francesco Pavani1,2,3;1CIMeC - Center for Mind/Brain Sciences, University of Trento, Rovereto, Italy, 2DiPSCo - Department of Psychology and Cognitive Sciences, University of Trento, Rovereto, Italy, 3Centre de Recherche en Neuroscience de Lyon, Lyon, France, 4Cooperativa Logogenia®, Italy

Studies on linguistic abilities of cochlear implant (CI) users revealed issues in complex syntactic structures rather than lexical, semantic and phonological knowledge (for studies in Italian see Guasti et al., 2012; Caselli et al., 2012). Previous studies on hearing monolinguals and bilinguals showed that ERPs are sensitive to differences in processing of syntactic relationship (e.g., Tanner & Van Hell, 2014) even when language proficiency is comparable. The purpose of our experiment is to use real-time and behavioral measures to evaluate how the CI impacts on language. To this aim we tested CI users and age-matched hearing controls with a rapid visual word-by-word sentence presentation while recording the EEG signal. Participants were presented with 320 sentences, half of them containing either a syntactic agreement (subject-verb) or a semantic violation. The experimental design was tuned to allow for subsequent analyses both at the single subject level and at group level. Participants also underwent behavioral assessment aimed at evaluating their competence. This preliminary report focuses on the results of 7 CI users (aged: 12, 16, 16, 20, 33, 50, and 63 yo; 3 with pre-verbal and 4 with post-verbal deafness onset), and 35 normal hearing (NH) controls (N=5 aged 12-17 yo; N=13 aged 18-28 yo; N=11 aged 29-44 yo; N=6 aged 45-65 yo). Both CI users and NH controls showed N400 and P600 in response to semantic and syntactic violations respectively. Despite our small and non-homogenous CI group, CI users showed a different pattern in the early stage of detection of syntactic violations. While NH controls showed a LAN, CI users showed a larger P2 in an earlier time window (180-220 ms) at left-frontal sites ((DFn=2, DFd=80), F=3.601, p=0.003). P2 has been linked to attention-related processes (Luck & Hillyard, 1994) and its amplitude may reflect context-induced expectations (Su et al., 2016) or enhanced processing at an orthographic level. These results may provide initial indications that CI users pay more attention on upcoming morphological features of words. This might be due to their altered phonology which modifies the cerebral pathways that allow the processing of functional aspects of speech.

Topic Area: Language Development

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