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Poster D4, Thursday, November 9, 6:15 – 7:30 pm, Harborview and Loch Raven Ballrooms

On the neural dynamics of syntactic prediction

K. Strijkers1, V. Chanoine2, D. Munding3, A.-S. Dubarry1, A. Trébuchon4, J.-M. Badier4, F.-X. Alario3;1Aix Marseille Univ, CNRS, LPL, Aix-en-Provence, France, 2Aix-Marseille Univ, Brain and Language Research Institute, Aix-en-Provence, France, 3Aix Marseille Univ, CNRS, LPC, Marseille, France, 4Aix Marseille Univ, INSERM, INS, Inst Neurosci Syst, Marseille, France

The human brain can predict upcoming linguistic information based on prior constraining contexts, an important asset to enhance the speed and efficiency of language processing. However, the scope and nature of the neural dynamics underpinning predictive processes in language remains poorly understood. The current study examined whether the brain utilizes grammatical information to anticipate syntactical structure in a continuous and automatic fashion, and the spatiotemporal dynamics that would drive such syntactical predictions. We conducted an MEG experiment in which we contrasted MRI-constrained sources elicited by nouns and verbs when they were preceded by a predictive context (i.e., possessive pronouns for nouns, and personal pronouns for verbs) versus an unpredictive context (visually matched symbols). The results showed rapid (from ~80 ms onwards) noun-verb differences in the left and right inferior frontal gyri (IFG), but only when those nouns and verbs were preceded by the syntactically predictive context (i.e. their corresponding pronoun). Furthermore, the contrast between possessive and personal pronouns that preceded the rapid noun-verb modulations in the IFG also produced differences in source activation in various regions of the prefrontal cortex (the superior frontal and orbitofrontal cortex), previously associated with top-down processes such as goal-directed behaviour, planning and proactive biasing. Taken together, these data demonstrate that predictive processing constitutes an integral and automatic part of the neural dynamics underlying syntactic parsing. These syntactic predictions may be sustained by the dynamical binding of the IFG with a domain-general, top-down biasing network in prefrontal cortex.

Topic Area: Grammar: Syntax

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