ABSTRACT: That similar words can prime one another is not news. However, this phenomenon can be exploited to make inferences about the organization of conceptual representations. What types of similarity matter? Although there is evidence that similarity of function, shape, and even manner of manipulation is reflected in semantic memory, evidence for organization on the basis of color similarity is sparse. This lack of evidence is surprising: Intuition suggests that color is a prominent feature of many object concepts. The research reported here clarifies this puzzle and illustrates the dynamic nature of conceptual representations. Our research demonstrates color-based priming (e.g., "emerald" primes "cucumber") in participants who completed a Stroop color-naming task before a priming task. Notably, the size of the Stroop effect predicted the size of the priming effect. When the order of tasks was reversed, priming effects were eliminated. By demonstrating that both extrinsic and intrinsic factors can influence conceptual activation, our findings have implications for theories of semantic memory.
Project description:Emotional dysregulation in alcoholism (ALC) may result from disturbed inhibitory mechanisms. We therefore tested emotion and alcohol cue reactivity and inhibitory processes using negative priming. To test the neural correlates of cue reactivity and negative priming, 26 ALC and 26 age-matched controls underwent functional MRI performing a Stroop color match-to-sample task. In cue reactivity trials, task-irrelevant emotion and alcohol-related pictures were interspersed between color samples and color words. In negative priming trials, pictures primed the semantic content of an alcohol or emotion Stroop word. Behaviorally, both groups showed response facilitation to picture cue trials and response inhibition to primed trials. For cue reactivity to emotion and alcohol pictures, ALC showed midbrain-limbic activation. By contrast, controls activated frontoparietal executive control regions. Greater midbrain-hippocampal activation in ALC correlated with higher amounts of lifetime alcohol consumption and higher anxiety. With negative priming, ALC exhibited frontal cortical but not midbrain-hippocampal activation, similar to the pattern observed in controls. Higher frontal activation to alcohol-priming correlated with less craving and to emotion-priming with fewer depressive symptoms. The findings suggest that neurofunctional systems in ALC can be primed to deal with upcoming emotion- and alcohol-related conflict and can overcome the prepotent midbrain-limbic cue reactivity response.
Project description:The anterior temporal lobe (ATL) is considered a crucial area for the representation of transmodal concepts. Recent evidence suggests that specific regions within the ATL support the representation of individual object concepts, as shown by studies combining multivariate analysis methods and explicit measures of semantic knowledge. This research looks to further our understanding by probing conceptual representations at a spatially and temporally resolved neural scale. Representational similarity analysis was applied to human intracranial recordings from anatomically defined lateral to medial ATL sub-regions. Neural similarity patterns were tested against semantic similarity measures, where semantic similarity was defined by a hybrid corpus-based and feature-based approach. Analyses show that the perirhinal cortex, in the medial ATL, significantly related to semantic effects around 200 to 400 ms, and were greater than more lateral ATL regions. Further, semantic effects were present in low frequency (theta and alpha) oscillatory phase signals. These results provide converging support that more medial regions of the ATL support the representation of basic-level visual object concepts within the first 400 ms, and provide a bridge between prior fMRI and MEG work by offering detailed evidence for the presence of conceptual representations within the ATL.
Project description:Conceptual knowledge is fundamental to human cognition. Yet, the extent to which it is influenced by language is unclear. Studies of semantic processing show that similar neural patterns are evoked by the same concepts presented in different modalities (e.g., spoken words and pictures or text) [1-3]. This suggests that conceptual representations are "modality independent." However, an alternative possibility is that the similarity reflects retrieval of common spoken language representations. Indeed, in hearing spoken language users, text and spoken language are co-dependent [4, 5], and pictures are encoded via visual and verbal routes . A parallel approach investigating semantic cognition shows that bilinguals activate similar patterns for the same words in their different languages [7, 8]. This suggests that conceptual representations are "language independent." However, this has only been tested in spoken language bilinguals. If different languages evoke different conceptual representations, this should be most apparent comparing languages that differ greatly in structure. Hearing people with signing deaf parents are bilingual in sign and speech: languages conveyed in different modalities. Here, we test the influence of modality and bilingualism on conceptual representation by comparing semantic representations elicited by spoken British English and British Sign Language in hearing early, sign-speech bilinguals. We show that representations of semantic categories are shared for sign and speech, but not for individual spoken words and signs. This provides evidence for partially shared representations for sign and speech and shows that language acts as a subtle filter through which we understand and interact with the world.
Project description:The entwined nature of perceptual and conceptual processes renders an understanding of the interplay between perceptual recognition and conceptual access a continuing challenge. Here, to disentangle perceptual and conceptual processing in the brain, we combine magnetoencephalography (MEG), picture and word presentation and representational similarity analysis (RSA). We replicate previous findings of early and robust sensitivity to semantic distances between objects presented as pictures and show earlier (~105 ?msec), but not later, representations can be accounted for by contemporary computer models of visual similarity (AlexNet). Conceptual content for word stimuli is reliably present in two temporal clusters, the first ranging from 230 to 335 ?msec, the second from 360 to ?585 msec. The time-course of picture induced semantic content and the spatial location of conceptual representation were highly convergent, and the spatial distribution of both differed from that of words. While this may reflect differences in picture and word induced conceptual access, this underscores potential confounds in visual perceptual and conceptual processing. On the other hand, using the stringent criterion that neural and conceptual spaces must align, the robust representation of semantic content by 230-240 msec for visually unconfounded word stimuli significantly advances estimates of the timeline of semantic access and its orthographic and lexical precursors.
Project description:Recent experience identifying objects leads to later improvements in both speed and accuracy ("repetition priming"), along with simultaneous reductions of neural activity ("repetition suppression"). A popular interpretation of these joint behavioral and neural phenomena is that object representations become perceptually "sharper" with stimulus repetition, eliminating cells that are poorly stimulus-selective and responsive and reducing support for competing representations downstream. Here, we test this hypothesis in an fMRI-adaptation experiment using pictures of objects. Prior to fMRI, participants repeatedly named a set of object pictures. During fMRI, participants viewed adaptation sequences composed of rapidly repeated objects (3-6 repetitions over several seconds) that were either named previously or that were new for the fMRI session, followed by single "deviant" object pictures used to measure recovery from adaptation and that shared a relationship to the adapted picture (a different exemplar of the same object, a conceptual associate, or an unrelated picture). Effects of adaptation and recovery were found throughout visually responsive brain regions. Occipitotemporal cortical regions displayed repetition suppression to previously named relative to new adapters but failed to exhibit pronounced changes in neural tuning. In contrast, changes in the slope of the recovery curves were found in the left lateral prefrontal cortex: Greater residual adaptation was observed to exemplar stimuli and conceptual associates following previously named adapting stimuli, consistent with greater rather than reduced neural overlap among representations of conceptually related objects. Furthermore, this change in neural tuning was directly related to the proportion of conceptual errors made by participants in the naming sessions pre- and post-fMRI, establishing that the experience-dependent conceptual broadening of object representations seen in fMRI is also manifest in behavior. In a follow-up behavioral experiment, we further show that recent naming experience leads to greater semantic priming when using the previously named pictures as briefly presented primes. Taken together, our results fail to support perceptual sharpening as the primary mediator between repetition suppression and behavioral priming at durations typically used to study priming and instead highlight an experience-dependent broadening of conceptual representations. We suggest that alternative mechanisms, such as increases in neural synchronization, are more promising in explaining priming in the face of repetition suppression.
Project description:Word retrieval is core to language production and relies on complementary processes: the rapid activation of lexical and conceptual representations and word selection, which chooses the correct word among semantically related competitors. Lexical and conceptual activation is measured by semantic priming. In contrast, word selection is indexed by semantic interference and is hampered in semantically homogeneous (HOM) contexts. We examined the spatiotemporal dynamics of these complementary processes in a picture naming task with blocks of semantically heterogeneous (HET) or HOM stimuli. We used electrocorticography data obtained from frontal and temporal cortices, permitting detailed spatiotemporal analysis of word retrieval processes. A semantic interference effect was observed with naming latencies longer in HOM versus HET blocks. Cortical response strength as indexed by high-frequency band (HFB) activity (70-150 Hz) amplitude revealed effects linked to lexical-semantic activation and word selection observed in widespread regions of the cortical mantle. Depending on the subsecond timing and cortical region, HFB indexed semantic interference (i.e., more activity in HOM than HET blocks) or semantic priming effects (i.e., more activity in HET than HOM blocks). These effects overlapped in time and space in the left posterior inferior temporal gyrus and the left prefrontal cortex. The data do not support a modular view of word retrieval in speech production but rather support substantial overlap of lexical-semantic activation and word selection mechanisms in the brain.
Project description:Most Chinese characters are compounds consisting of a semantic radical indicating semantic category and a phonetic radical cuing the pronunciation of the character. Controversy surrounds whether radicals also go through the same lexical processing as characters and, critically, whether phonetic radicals involve semantic activation since they can also be characters when standing alone. Here we examined these issues using the Stroop task whereby participants responded to the ink color of the character. The key finding was that Stroop effects were found when the character itself had a meaning unrelated to color, but contained a color name phonetic radical (e.g., "guess", with the phonetic radical "cyan", on the right) or had a meaning associated with color (e.g., "pity", with the phonetic radical "blood" on the right which has a meaning related to "red"). Such Stroop effects from the phonetic radical within a character unrelated to color support that Chinese character recognition involves decomposition of characters into their constituent radicals; with each of their meanings including phonetic radicals activated independently, even though it would inevitably interfere with that of the whole character. Compared with the morphological decomposition in English whereby the semantics of the morphemes are not necessarily activated, the unavoidable semantic activation of phonetic radicals represents a unique feature in Chinese character processing.
Project description:Sensorimotor theories of semantic memory require overlap between conceptual and perceptual representations. One source of evidence for such overlap comes from neuroimaging reports of co-activation during memory retrieval and perception; for example, regions involved in color perception (i.e., regions that respond more to colored than grayscale stimuli) are activated by retrieval of object color. One unanswered question from these studies is whether distinctions that are observed during perception are likewise observed during memory retrieval. That is, are regions defined by a chromaticity effect in perception similarly modulated by the chromaticity of remembered objects (e.g., lemons more than coal)? Subjects performed color perception and color retrieval tasks while undergoing fMRI. We observed increased activation during both perception and memory retrieval of chromatic compared to achromatic stimuli in overlapping areas of the left lingual gyrus, but not in dorsal or anterior regions activated during color perception. These results support sensorimotor theories but suggest important distinctions within the conceptual system.
Project description:An extensive body of empirical research has revealed remarkable regularities in the acquisition, organization, deployment, and neural representation of human semantic knowledge, thereby raising a fundamental conceptual question: What are the theoretical principles governing the ability of neural networks to acquire, organize, and deploy abstract knowledge by integrating across many individual experiences? We address this question by mathematically analyzing the nonlinear dynamics of learning in deep linear networks. We find exact solutions to this learning dynamics that yield a conceptual explanation for the prevalence of many disparate phenomena in semantic cognition, including the hierarchical differentiation of concepts through rapid developmental transitions, the ubiquity of semantic illusions between such transitions, the emergence of item typicality and category coherence as factors controlling the speed of semantic processing, changing patterns of inductive projection over development, and the conservation of semantic similarity in neural representations across species. Thus, surprisingly, our simple neural model qualitatively recapitulates many diverse regularities underlying semantic development, while providing analytic insight into how the statistical structure of an environment can interact with nonlinear deep-learning dynamics to give rise to these regularities.
Project description:Previous neuroimaging studies suggested an involvement of sensory-motor brain systems during conceptual processing in support of grounded cognition theories of conceptual memory. However, in these studies with visible stimuli, contributions of strategic imagery or semantic elaboration processes to observed sensory-motor activity cannot be entirely excluded. In the present study, we therefore investigated the electrophysiological correlates of unconscious feature-specific priming of action- and sound-related concepts within a novel feature-priming paradigm to specifically probe automatic processing of conceptual features without the contribution of possibly confounding factors such as orthographic similarity or response congruency. Participants were presented with a masked subliminal prime word and a subsequent visible target word. In the feature-priming conditions primes as well as targets belonged to the same conceptual feature dimension (action or sound, e.g., typewriter or radio) whereas in the two non-priming conditions, either the primes or the targets consisted of matched control words with low feature relevance (e.g., butterfly or candle). Event-related potential analyses revealed unconscious feature-specific priming effects at fronto-central electrodes within 100 to 180 ms after target stimulus onset that differed with regard to topography and underlying neural generators. In congruency with previous findings under visible stimulation conditions, these differential subliminal ERP feature-priming effects demonstrate an unconscious automatic access to action versus sound features of concepts. The present results therefore support grounded cognition theory suggesting that activity in sensory and motor areas during conceptual processing can also occur unconsciously and is not mandatorily accompanied by a vivid conscious experience of the conceptual content such as in imagery.