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Neural harmonics reflect grammaticality

MPS-Authors
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Tavano,  Alessandro
Department of Neuroscience, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;

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Blohm,  Stefan
Department of Language and Literature, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;

Knoop,  Christine
Department of Language and Literature, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;

Muralikrishnan,  R
Department of Neuroscience, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;

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Scharinger,  Mathias
Department of Language and Literature, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;
University of Marburg;

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Wagner,  Valentin
Department of Language and Literature, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;

Thiele,  Dominik
Department of Neuroscience, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;

Menninghaus,  Winfried
Department of Language and Literature, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;

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Poeppel,  David
Department of Neuroscience, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;
Department of Psychology, New York University, New York;

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Citation

Tavano, A., Blohm, S., Knoop, C., Muralikrishnan, R., Scharinger, M., Wagner, V., et al. (2020). Neural harmonics reflect grammaticality. bioRxiv - The Preprint Server for Biology, Preprint. Retrieved from http://biorxiv.org/content/early/2020/04/08/2020.04.08.031575.abstract.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-343D-B
Abstract
Can neural activity reveal syntactic structure building processes and their violations? To verify this, we recorded electroencephalographic and behavioral data as participants discriminated concatenated isochronous sentence chains containing only grammatical sentences (regular trials) from those containing ungrammatical sentences (irregular trials). We found that the repetition of abstract syntactic categories generates a harmonic structure of their period independently of stimulus rate, thereby separating endogenous from exogenous neural rhythms. Behavioral analyses confirmed this dissociation. Internal neural harmonics extracted from regular trials predicted participants’ grammatical sensitivity better than harmonics extracted from irregular trials, suggesting a direct reflection of grammatical sensitivity. Instead, entraining to external stimulus rate scaled with task sensitivity only when extracted from irregular trials, reflecting attention-capture processing. Neural harmonics to repeated syntactic categories constitute the first behaviorally relevant, purely internal index of syntactic competence.