The temporal dynamics of structure and content

September 27, 2018

Our multimodal MEG & fMRI study is now out in Human Brain Mapping!


This paper sought to elucidate the combinatorial linguistic processing in the brain by using MEG to uncover the temporal dynamics of activation within regions spatially localized with fMRI. Lots of good stuff in there - particularly check out the effect of structural prediction we observed in the posterior temporal lobe (PTL). Essentially, the activation profile in the PTL looks like a left-corner parser - increased activation for sentence processing (relative to a matched control condition) at the end of the subject noun phrase. Lately I've been developing a model of syntax and conceptual semantics in the brain (with Greg Hickok) that places hierarchical syntactic representations in the PTL (see my talk at the center for the study of aphasia recovery, C-STAR, This result fits in perfectly with this model.


Interestingly, the predictive pattern we identified in the PTL was quite distinct from what we found in the temporo-parietal junction (TPJ), a brain region spatially adjacent to the PTL. The TPJ did not show this early, predictive effect at all, but rather showed an effect of structure towards the end of the sentence. This seems much more like processing the event structure of the sentence, i.e. who did what to whom, consistent with previous data. This also fits nicely into the model.

 This was a major part of my postdoctoral work with Ellen Lau at the University of Maryland Linguistics dept. Christian Brodbeck was amazing for his MEG analysis abilities and knowledge, and Christopher Hammerly was crucial for the conceptualization of the project, stimulus development, and data collection. Special thanks to Ellen for being an awesome advisor!

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© 2017 by William Matchin Personal

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