Left fronto-temporal dynamics during agreement processing: Evidence for feature-specific computations

Nicola Molinaro, Horacio A. Barber, Alejandro Pérez, Lauri Parkkonen, Manuel Carreiras
2013 NeuroImage  
Grammatical agreement is a widespread language phenomenon that indicates formal syntactic relations between words; however, it also conveys basic lexical (e.g. grammatical gender) or semantic (e.g. numerosity) information about a discourse referent. In this study, we focus on the reading of Spanish noun phrases, violating either number or gender determiner-noun agreement compared to grammatical controls. Magnetoencephalographic activity time-locked to the onset of the noun in both types of
more » ... both types of violation revealed a left-lateralized brain network involving anterior temporal regions (~220 ms) and, later in time, ventro-lateral prefrontal regions (>300 ms). These activations coexist with dependency-specific effects: in an initial step (~170 ms), occipito-temporal regions are employed for fine-grained analysis of the number marking (in Spanish, presence or absence of the suffix '-s'), while anterior temporal regions show increased activation for gender mismatches compared to grammatical controls. The semantic relevance of number agreement dependencies was mainly reflected by left superior temporal increased activity around 340 ms. These findings offer a detailed perspective on the multi-level analyses involved in the initial computation of agreement dependencies, and theoretically support a derivational approach to agreement computation.
doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.04.025 pmid:23603285 fatcat:q65q5fopsjfm3bb2d3gh7jdxse