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Event-related brain potential (ERP) studies of sentence processing

Marta Kutas and Kara D. Federmeier

Published in print August 2007 | ISBN: 9780198568971
Published online September 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780198568971.013.0023
 Event-related brain potential (ERP) studies of sentence processing

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The intact human brain is the only known system that can interpret and respond to various visual and acoustic patterns. Therefore, unlike researchers of other cognitive phenomena, (neuro)psycholinguists cannot avail themselves of invasive techniques in non-human animals to uncover the responsible mechanisms in the large parts of the (human) brain that have been implicated in language processing. Engagement of these different anatomical areas does, however, generate distinct patterns of biological activity (such as ion flow across neural membranes) that can be recorded inside and outside the heads of humans as they quickly, often seamlessly, and without much conscious reflection on the computations and linguistic regularities involved, understand spoken, written, or signed sentences. This article summarizes studies of event-related brain potentials and sentence processing. It discusses electrophysiology, language and the brain, processing language meaning, context effects in meaning processing, non-literal language processing, processing language form, parsing, slow potentials and the closure positive shift, and plasticity and learning.

Keywords: brain potentials; sentence processing; parsing; electrophysiology; language; language meaning; context effects; closure positive shift; plasticity; learning

Article.  15131 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience

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