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Revealing task-specific and domain-general neural networks that track coherence and integrate contextual information: evidence from semantic and non-semantic tasks in different perceptual modalities.

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Poster B29 in Poster Session B, Tuesday, October 24, 3:30 - 5:15 pm CEST, Espace Vieux-Port

Francesca M. Branzi1, Matthew A. Lambon Ralph2; 1University of Liverpool, 2MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, University of Cambridge

We have recently identified the neural networks that support context integration during narrative processing (Branzi et al., 2020; 2021). However, one important question left unaddressed refers to the nature of these context integration processes. Does the neural activity observed during narrative processing reflect semantic-specific or domain-general processes? What brain regions track “meaning”? We addressed these questions across different fMRI experiments, using a variety of naturalistic stimuli (e.g., sentences, numbers, music), delivered in both visual and audio modalities. Using both uni- and multi-variate analyses (ICA) combined with computational linguistic methods, we revealed the neural networks that track coherence and integrate contextual information in semantic and non-semantic tasks. Across all experimental studies, we found that contextual integration relied on a domain-general network. In detail, a fronto-parietal network, overlapping with the multi-demand system (Duncan, 2010), supported contextual integration in both semantic and non-semantic tasks. However, this network was insensitive to whether the integrated content was coherent with the previous contextual support (i.e., coherence tracking). Instead, task-specific networks (e.g., ‘language network’) were sensitive to contextual coherence. Interestingly, in semantic tasks (narratives), activity in the right ATL and posterior cingulate cortex/precuneus tracked semantic coherence in both audio and visual modalities. Our results also provide insights into the role of the left angular gyrus and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, whose functional role in semantic cognition is still highly debated (Pylkkänen, 2019; Humphreys et al., 2021). In our results, these regions were similarly involved during the integration of contextual information in semantic and non-semantic tasks. We propose that their neural activity reflects domain-general processes to buffer and maintain contextual content, respectively.

Topic Areas: Meaning: Lexical Semantics, Syntax and Combinatorial Semantics

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