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Poster D42, Thursday, November 9, 6:15 – 7:30 pm, Harborview and Loch Raven Ballrooms

Functional connectivity between cognitive control and episodic memory systems in event comprehension

Zachary Ekves1,2, Pedro Paz-Alonso3, Nicholas Hindy4, Sarah Solomon5, Gerry Altmann1,2;1University of Connecticut, 2The Connecticut Institute for the Brain and Cognitive Sciences, 3Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language, 4University of Kentucky, 5University of Pennsylvania

Language comprehension often involves tracking an object undergoing a change in state across time: to understand the event “he chopped the onion” one needs to know the typical semantic qualities of the type “onion” and attribute episodically bound characteristics to a particular object-token (e.g. this particular onion is now in a chopped state). Recent work [1,2] has shown that when language refers to objects that have previously undergone substantial changes in state (e.g. “he chopped the onion, then smelled the onion”), portions of the left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC; an area generally implicated in cognitive control [3]) show greater activation compared to later reference to objects that have not changed substantially (e.g. “he weighed the onion, then smelled the onion”). This increased activation for reference to substantially changed objects is token specific, as later reference to a different token of the same type shows no degree of change effect (“She chopped the onion and then smelled ANOTHER ONION.”). The authors suggest that this is indicative of a need to select between competing states of the same object token (does “the onion” refer to the newly chopped state or the previously intact state?), and lends support for a theory of event representation in which object token-states are representational primitives. To examine the relationship between the cognitive control and memory systems underlying language processing in this framework, we examined functional neural connectivity during reading in a reanalysis of fMRI experiments [1,2] that manipulated both the degree of state change that the critical objects underwent and whether reference was made to previous vs novel tokens (“She will WEIGH/CHOP the onion and then she will smell THE ONION/ANOTHER ONION.”). Here the focus is on the relationship between cognitive control regions and subsegments of the hippocampus, a region implicated in episodic memory function [4] which is not typically a focus in work on language processing. We found increased connectivity between left pars triangularis (in VLPFC) and left hippocampal body for sentences referring to novel tokens compared to those referring to the same, but substantially changed, object (“chop the onion… smell THE ONION/ANOTHER ONION”). No difference in connectivity between these regions is observed in a comparison between sentences referring to novel tokens vs the same token when the objects have only minimally been changed however (“WEIGH the onion… smell the onion/another onion”). We take our findings to be suggestive of cognitive control regions playing a role in modulating the features being attributed to objects in hippocampal, episodic memory systems during reference in language processing. Connectivity between occipital gyrus, angular gyrus, and the hippocampus will also be discussed. 1. Hindy, N. C., Altmann, G. T. M., Kalenik, E., & Thompson-Schill, S. L. (2012). Journal of Neuroscience, 32(17), 5795–5803. 2. Solomon, S. H., Hindy, N. C., Altmann, G. T. M., & Thompson-Schill, S. L. (2015). Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 27(12), 2324–2338. 3. Thompson-Schill, S. L., D’Esposito, M., Aguirre, G. K., & Farah, M. J. (1997). PNAS, 94(26), 14792–14797. 4. Davachi, L. (2006). Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 16(6), 693–700.

Topic Area: Meaning: Discourse and Pragmatics

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