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Integrating timescales: Investigating oscillatory neuronal dynamics during unfolding short discourses


Lewis,  Ashley Glen
Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour;
International Max Planck Research School for Language Sciences, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Lewis, A. G. (2012). Integrating timescales: Investigating oscillatory neuronal dynamics during unfolding short discourses. Talk presented at Donders Discussions 2012. Nijmegen, NL. 2012-10-26 - 2012-10-27.

Language comprehension involves the integration of multiple sources of information extremely quickly and in an ongoing fashion. A highly desireable goal is to investigate the underlying cognitive and neural systems involved during this integration process. ERP approaches have thus far allowed us to obtain only brief glimpses of the temporal dynamics of these systems. While we have gained some important insights, these ERP approaches restrict us to the investigation of short periods of time directly following or preceding some critical stimulus or experimental manipulation. Presumably, most language scientists would be interested in tools which would allow them to extend these types of investigations to address more natural comprehension situations, not restricted to any particular point in time, and potentially spread out over entire sentences or discourses. In this talk I shall outline how investigating changes in oscillatory activity in the EEG signal can provide information, not provided by more traditional ERP approaches, about the temporal dynamics of the language comprehension system. To illustrate this point I shall review some recent experimental work investigating oscillatory changes during sentence comprehension, with modulations of various aspects of linguistic processing selectively altering oscillatory activity in specific frequency bands. I shall then present some of my own research on how we can investigate oscillatory dynamics over the course of short discourses, and what that can tell us about the temporal dynamics of the underlying neural systems responsible for discourse-level semantic comprehension. Finally, I shall outline some tentative ideas about how the research conducted thus far into the oscillatory dynamics involved in language comprehension might fit into a more general framework of the role of oscillatory dynamics in linking cognitive function to neural information processing.