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Journal Article

Syntactic and semantic processing in the healthy and aphasic human brain


Dobel,  Christian
Language Production Group Levelt , MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Dobel, C., Pulvermüller, F., Härle, M., Cohen, R., Köbbel, P., Schönle, P. W., et al. (2001). Syntactic and semantic processing in the healthy and aphasic human brain. Experimental Brain Research, 140(1), 77-85. doi:10.1007/s002210100794.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0002-C155-4
A syntactic and a semantic task were per-formed by German-speaking healthy subjects and apha-sics with lesions in the dominant left hemisphere. In both
tasks, pictures of objects were presented that had to be classified by pressing buttons. The classification was into grammatical gender in the syntactic task (masculine or feminine gender?) and into semantic category in the se-
mantic task (man- or nature made?). Behavioral data revealed a significant Group by Task interaction, with
aphasics showing most pronounced problems with syn-
tax. Brain event-related potentials 300–600 ms following picture onset showed different task-dependent laterality
patterns in the two groups. In controls, the syntax task
induced a left-lateralized negative ERP, whereas the semantic task produced more symmetric responses over the hemispheres. The opposite was the case in the patients, where, paradoxically, stronger laterality of physio-logical brain responses emerged in the semantic task than in the syntactic task. We interpret these data based on neuro-psycholinguistic models of word processing and current theories about the roles of the hemispheres in language recovery.