Apr 25, 2020

Representational pattern similarity of electrical brain activity reveals rapid and specific prediction during language comprehension

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Ryan J Hubbard, K. D. Federmeier


Predicting upcoming stimuli and events is a critical function of the brain, and understanding the mechanisms of prediction has thus become a central topic in neuroscientific research. Language provides a fertile testing ground for examining predictive mechanisms, as comprehenders use context to predict different features of upcoming words. Although there is a substantive body of research on prediction in language, many aspects of the mechanisms of prediction remain elusive, in part due to a lack of methodological tools to probe prediction formation in the moment. To elucidate what features are neurally pre-activated and when, we used representational similarity analysis (RSA) on data from a sentence reading task (Federmeier et al., 2007). We compared EEG activity patterns elicited by expected and unexpected sentence final words to patterns from the preceding words of the sentence, in both strongly and weakly constraining sentences. Pattern similarity with the final word was increased in an early time window (suggestive of visual feature activation) following the presentation of the pre-final word, and this increase was modulated by both expectancy and constraint (greatest for strongly constrained expected words). This was not s...Continue Reading

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