The role of neural feedback in language unification: How awareness affects combinatorial processing
[S.l. : s.n.]
Number of pages
Radboud University, 20 januari 2020
Promotor : Hagoort, P. Co-promotor : Gaal, S. van
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SW OZ DCC PL
While most living creatures have a code of communication, human communication faculty, which we call language, is the only faculty that is virtually infinite in its capacity of expression. How the human brain combines a finite number of words into possibly unlimited sentences is a crucial, still unanswered issue. Within language processing, one distinguishes between single word and sentence processing. In my thesis, I investigated which brain mechanisms allow us to disentangle sentence and single word processing. I tested the prediction that feedback (top-down) processing is required for sentence processing, but not for single word processing, by means of visual masking. Visual masking is an experimental technique that makes visually presented words "invisible" by briefly flashing them on the computer screen, hidden among other visual stimuli. Previous research on visual perception showed that masking disrupts feedback processing, while preserving feedforward (bottom-up) processing. Therefore, I employed masking to disrupt feedback and investigated which processes were impaired under these conditions. Overall, I found that masking disrupts sentence processing, but not single word processing. This suggests that sentence processing requires full awareness, whereas single word processing may occur under reduced levels of awareness. These results suggest that feedback processing is required for sentence processing, but not for single word processing.
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