NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ851599
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Aug
Pages: 14
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0093-934X
Understanding in an Instant: Neurophysiological Evidence for Mechanistic Language Circuits in the Brain
Pulvermuller, Friedemann; Shtyrov, Yury; Hauk, Olaf
Brain and Language, v110 n2 p81-94 Aug 2009
How long does it take the human mind to grasp the idea when hearing or reading a sentence? Neurophysiological methods looking directly at the time course of brain activity indexes of comprehension are critical for finding the answer to this question. As the dominant cognitive approaches, models of serial/cascaded and parallel processing, make conflicting predictions on the time course of psycholinguistic information access, they can be tested using neurophysiological brain activation recorded in MEG and EEG experiments. Seriality and cascading of lexical, semantic and syntactic processes receives support from late (latency [similar to] 1/2 s) sequential neurophysiological responses, especially N400 and P600. However, parallelism is substantiated by early near-simultaneous brain indexes of a range of psycholinguistic processes, up to the level of semantic access and context integration, emerging already 100-250 ms after critical stimulus information is present. Crucially, however, there are reliable latency differences of 20-50 ms between early cortical area activations reflecting lexical, semantic and syntactic processes, which are left unexplained by current serial and parallel brain models of language. We here offer a mechanistic model grounded in cortical nerve cell circuits that builds upon neuroanatomical and neurophysiological knowledge and explains both near-simultaneous activations and fine-grained delays. A key concept is that of discrete distributed cortical circuits with specific inter-area topographies. The full activation, or ignition, of specifically distributed binding circuits explains the near-simultaneity of early neurophysiological indexes of lexical, syntactic and semantic processing. Activity spreading within circuits determined by between-area conduction delays accounts for comprehension-related regional activation differences in the millisecond range. (Contains 5 figures.)
Elsevier. 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, FL 32887-4800. Tel: 877-839-7126; Tel: 407-345-4020; Fax: 407-363-1354; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A