Syntax is a species-specific component of human language combining a finite set of words in a potentially infinite number of sentences. Since words are by definition expressed by sound, factoring out syntactic information is normally impossible. Here, we circumvented this problem in a novel way by designing phrases with exactly the same acoustic content but different syntactic structures depending on the other words they occur with. In particular, we used phrases merging an article with a noun yielding a Noun Phrase (NP) or a clitic with a verb yielding a Verb Phrase (VP). We performed stereo-electroencephalographic (SEEG) recordings in epileptic patients. We measured a different electrophysiological correlates of verb phrases vs. noun phrases in multiple cortical areas in both hemispheres, including language areas and their homologous in the non-dominant hemisphere. The high gamma band activity (150-300 Hz frequency), which plays a crucial role in inter-regional cortical communications, showed a significant difference during the presentation of the homophonous phrases, depending on whether the phrase was a verb phrase or a noun phrase. Our findings contribute to the ultimate goal of a complete neural decoding of linguistic structures from the brain.

High gamma response tracks different syntactic structures in homophonous phrases

Catricalà, Eleonora;Conca, Francesca;Cappa, Stefano F.;Moro, Andrea
2020

Abstract

Syntax is a species-specific component of human language combining a finite set of words in a potentially infinite number of sentences. Since words are by definition expressed by sound, factoring out syntactic information is normally impossible. Here, we circumvented this problem in a novel way by designing phrases with exactly the same acoustic content but different syntactic structures depending on the other words they occur with. In particular, we used phrases merging an article with a noun yielding a Noun Phrase (NP) or a clitic with a verb yielding a Verb Phrase (VP). We performed stereo-electroencephalographic (SEEG) recordings in epileptic patients. We measured a different electrophysiological correlates of verb phrases vs. noun phrases in multiple cortical areas in both hemispheres, including language areas and their homologous in the non-dominant hemisphere. The high gamma band activity (150-300 Hz frequency), which plays a crucial role in inter-regional cortical communications, showed a significant difference during the presentation of the homophonous phrases, depending on whether the phrase was a verb phrase or a noun phrase. Our findings contribute to the ultimate goal of a complete neural decoding of linguistic structures from the brain.
language, brain, syntax, SEEG, oscillatory, electrophysiology
File in questo prodotto:
Non ci sono file associati a questo prodotto.

I documenti in IRIS sono protetti da copyright e tutti i diritti sono riservati, salvo diversa indicazione.

Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12076/6763
 Attenzione

Attenzione! I dati visualizzati non sono stati sottoposti a validazione da parte dell'ateneo

Citazioni
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.pmc??? ND
  • Scopus 7
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.isi??? 5
social impact