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Alignment of alpha-band desynchronization with syntactic structure predicts successful sentence comprehension

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Vassileiou,  Benedict
Department Neuropsychology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Meyer,  Lars
Department Neuropsychology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Beese,  Caroline
Department Neuropsychology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Friederici,  Angela D.
Department Neuropsychology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Vassileiou, B., Meyer, L., Beese, C., & Friederici, A. D. (2018). Alignment of alpha-band desynchronization with syntactic structure predicts successful sentence comprehension. NeuroImage, 175, 286-296. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2018.04.008.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0001-292C-1
Abstract
Sentence comprehension requires the encoding of phrases and their relationships into working memory. To date, despite the importance of neural oscillations in language comprehension, the neural-oscillatory dynamics of sentence encoding are only sparsely understood. Although oscillations in a wide range of frequency bands have been reported both for the encoding of unstructured word lists and for working-memory intensive sentences, it is unclear to what extent these frequency bands subserve processes specific to the working-memory component of sentence comprehension or to general verbal working memory. In our auditory electroencephalography study, we isolated the working-memory component of sentence comprehension by adapting a subsequent memory paradigm to sentence comprehension and assessing oscillatory power changes during successful sentence encoding. Time–frequency analyses and source reconstruction revealed alpha-power desynchronization in left-hemispheric language-relevant regions during successful sentence encoding. We further showed that sentence encoding was more successful when source-level alpha-band desynchronization aligned with computational measures of syntactic—compared to lexical-semantic—difficulty. Our results are a preliminary indication of a domain-general mechanism of cortical disinhibition via alpha-band desynchronization superimposed onto the language-relevant cortex, which is beneficial for encoding sentences into working memory.