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Poster B40, Wednesday, November 8, 3:00 – 4:15 pm, Harborview and Loch Raven Ballrooms

Commonalities in the neural encoding of sentence meaning across widely distributed brain regions

Andrew Anderson1, Edmund Lalor1, Leonardo Fernandino2, Rajeev Raizada1, Scott Grimm1, Vankee Lin1, Xixi Wang1;1University of Rochester, 2Medical College of Wisconsin

Deciphering how sentence meaning is represented in the brain remains a major challenge to science. Semantically related neural activity has recently been shown to rise concurrently in spatially distributed brain regions as successive words in a sentence are read. However, what semantic content is represented by different regions, what is common across them, and how this relates to different elements of sentences’ grammatical structure is weakly understood. To address these questions, we apply a semantic model of words’ meaning, based on human ratings of a diverse set of 65 sensory/motor/emotional and cognitive features of experience with words' referents, to interpret brain activation patterns elicited in sentence comprehension. 14 participants were scanned using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) as they read 240 sentences describing everyday situations. Through a process of mapping fMRI scans of brain activation back into the semantic model space: we test which brain regions reconstruct semantic features associated with different elements of sentences’ grammatical structure; and which semantic features are reconstructed by different regions. From left temporal, inferior parietal, inferior frontal and superior frontal brain regions we extract semantic features associated with all elements of grammatical structure investigated and many common components of experience. This newly reveals that during sentence comprehension: there are strong commonalities in the encoding of sentence meaning across multiple distributed brain regions; and the neural codes from many regions enable reconstruction of diverse aspects of humans’ experience.

Topic Area: Meaning: Lexical Semantics

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