Contextual Acquisition of Concrete and Abstract Words: Behavioural and Electrophysiological Evidence

Nadezhda Mkrtychian, Daria Gnedykh, Evgeny Blagovechtchenski, Diana Tsvetova, Svetlana Kostromina, Yury Shtyrov
2021 Brain Sciences  
and concrete words differ in their cognitive and neuronal underpinnings, but the exact mechanisms underlying these distinctions are unclear. We investigated differences between these two semantic types by analysing brain responses to newly learnt words with fully controlled psycholinguistic properties. Experimental participants learned 20 novel abstract and concrete words in the context of short stories. After the learning session, event-related potentials (ERPs) to newly learned items were
more » ... rded, and acquisition outcomes were assessed behaviourally in a range of lexical and semantic tasks. Behavioural results showed better performance on newly learnt abstract words in lexical tasks, whereas semantic assessments showed a tendency for higher accuracy for concrete words. ERPs to novel abstract and concrete concepts differed early on, ~150 ms after the word onset. Moreover, differences between novel words and control untrained pseudowords were observed earlier for concrete (~150 ms) than for abstract (~200 ms) words. Distributed source analysis indicated bilateral temporo-parietal activation underpinning newly established memory traces, suggesting a crucial role of Wernicke's area and its right-hemispheric homologue in word acquisition. In sum, we report behavioural and neurophysiological processing differences between concrete and abstract words evident immediately after their controlled acquisition, confirming distinct neurocognitive mechanisms underpinning these types of semantics.
doi:10.3390/brainsci11070898 fatcat:faemadbmcbamxd3xbu4z56p2ri