College of LAS Events
College of LAS Events
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LINGUISTICS - Seminar Series talk by Prof. Kara Federmeier, U of I Psychology: "Time for Meaning: What electrophysiology reveals about how the brain makes sense of the world"
Abstract: How does the human brain so rapidly and reliably link complex perceptual stimuli, such as words, to the information stored in long-term memory that constitutes the "meaning" of those words? Electrophysiological data suggest that meaning is accessed through a stimulus-elicited, temporally-delimited process that binds neural activity across a distributed, multimodal brain network. In contrast to long-standing views that treat the recognition of words (and other meaningful stimuli) as occurring primarily through feed-forward processing that it relatively impervious to context, our work has shown that the language comprehension system uses context information to predict semantic and even perceptual features of likely upcoming words. The fact that some information may be available to the brain even before the word actually appears is likely an important part of what allows meaning processing to be as fast and effective as it usually is. However, although prediction seems important for comprehension, it also appears susceptible to age-related deterioration and can be associated with processing costs. Intriguingly, our research suggests that the brain might use both predictive and more "bottom-up" processing strategies in parallel, distributed across the left and right cerebral hemispheres. In particular, we have shown that whereas the right hemisphere processes language inputs in a feedforward manner, the left hemisphere is more likely to generate predictions, perhaps because comprehension mechanisms are integrated with language production mechanisms only in the left hemisphere, which is strongly dominant for speech. Overall, our research has revealed that there is a "time for meaning".