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Towards a causal role for Broca's area in language - A TMS-EEG study of syntactic prediction

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Maran,  Matteo
Department Neuropsychology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
International Max Planck Research School on Neuroscience of Communication: Function, Structure, and Plasticity, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Maran, M. (2020). Towards a causal role for Broca's area in language - A TMS-EEG study of syntactic prediction. Talk presented at Neurolinguistics Colloquium. University of Potsdam, Germany. 2020-12-15 - 2020-12-15.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0008-5574-6
Abstract
Categorical predictions have been proposed as the mechanism supporting the fast pace of syntactic composition. Accordingly, grammar-based expectations (e.g. “the” → prediction for a noun) facilitate the analysis of incoming syntactic information, which is then checked only against a single or few potential categories. Functional studies from the literature point towards Broca’s area as the neural substrate of categorical prediction, however causal evidence for this hypothesis is still missing. In this study, we combined Electroencephalography and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) to induce a virtual lesion in Broca’s area at the stage of categorical prediction while simultaneously measuring the Event-Related Potential (ERP) correlates of syntactic composition. Interference was induced during the first word (determiner or pronoun) of a two-word phrase. We expected that stimulation of Broca’s area, compared to control conditions, would have resulted in the absence of a prediction. Therefore, we expected no difference between the ERP responses to its fulfilment (determiner + noun, pronoun + verb) and violation (*determiner + verb, *pronoun + noun). Contrary to our hypothesis, the virtual lesion of Broca’s area at the predictive stage did not affect the ERP correlates of syntactic composition. We discuss the present results in light of an alternative account of Broca’s area role in syntactic composition, namely the bottom-up integration of words into constituents