Perturbation of old knowledge precedes integration of new knowledge

Xiaoping Fang, Charles A. Perfetti
2017 Neuropsychologia  
The importance of memory consolidation in integrating new knowledge has received much recent attention in the field of word learning. Less examined is the change in existing word knowledge as a result of learning, which we hypothesize to occur prior to the opportunity for consolidation. To test this, we had participants learn new meanings for known words and novel words. Then they performed a one-back task on a list of words that included the trained words followed by words that probed either
more » ... eir new or original meanings while EEGs were recorded. A probe word related to the new meaning of the preceding trained word did not show an N400 reduction compared to an unrelated word, suggesting that the new meaning had not been fully integrated, consistent with one account of complementary learning systems. However, when the probe word was related to the original meaning of the preceding trained word a perturbation effect was observed: a larger negativity, relative to exposure controls, was observed at the central midline cluster (Cz) between 500 and 700 ms. The perturbation effect suggests that even before a new meaning has become integrated with a word form, the attempt to learn a new meaning temporarily makes the original meaning of a word less accessible.
doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2017.03.015 pmid:28315367 pmcid:PMC5506839 fatcat:e43npcmufbagtni7ec6lao2eqe