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Neural signatures of response planning occur midway through an incoming question in conversation.

Bögels S, Magyari L, Levinson SC - Sci Rep (2015)

Bottom Line: Combining an interactive quiz paradigm with EEG measurements in an innovative way, we show that production planning processes start as soon as possible, that is, within half a second after the answer to a question can be retrieved (up to several seconds before the end of the question).Finally, oscillation results suggest an attention switch from comprehension to production around the same time frame.This perspective from interactive language use throws new light on the performance characteristics that language competence involves.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

ABSTRACT
A striking puzzle about language use in everyday conversation is that turn-taking latencies are usually very short, whereas planning language production takes much longer. This implies overlap between language comprehension and production processes, but the nature and extent of such overlap has never been studied directly. Combining an interactive quiz paradigm with EEG measurements in an innovative way, we show that production planning processes start as soon as possible, that is, within half a second after the answer to a question can be retrieved (up to several seconds before the end of the question). Localization of ERP data shows early activation even of brain areas related to late stages of production planning (e.g., syllabification). Finally, oscillation results suggest an attention switch from comprehension to production around the same time frame. This perspective from interactive language use throws new light on the performance characteristics that language competence involves.

No MeSH data available.


Localizations of reduced alpha power for the critical words in the main experiment.Localizations of the reduced alpha power at TL1 (EARLY vs. LATE) are shown at the top and those at TL2 (LATE vs EARLY) are shown at the bottom. Colors indicate T-values.
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f4: Localizations of reduced alpha power for the critical words in the main experiment.Localizations of the reduced alpha power at TL1 (EARLY vs. LATE) are shown at the top and those at TL2 (LATE vs EARLY) are shown at the bottom. Colors indicate T-values.

Mentions: These oscillatory effects might be interpreted in two different ways. First, reduced alpha (and beta) power has been associated with motor preparation (often then called mu desynchronization20). Thus, this effect could be related to preparing of motor responses needed for producing the answer. Second, alpha power changes have been associated with attentional and working memory effects21. To shed more light on the issue, we performed source localizations of the effects in the main experiment. At TL1 (EARLY vs. LATE; 9–14 Hz, 500–1500 ms; one cluster, p = .013) maxima for the reduced alpha effect were localized in parietal/occipital and posterior parts of the brain, most strongly in the left hemisphere (Fig. 4, top). At TL2 (LATE vs. EARLY; 9–14 Hz, 500–1500 ms), we found a marginally significant cluster (p = .08), also localizing to parietal and occipital areas (Fig. 4, bottom). Since these localizations are not in or close to the motor cortex, they therefore do not corroborate an interpretation related to motor preparation. A second interpretation, related to attention, notes that increased alpha power in the posterior (occipital/parietal) part of the brain has been associated with attention to auditory input212223 and a high working memory load24, possibly to actively inhibit visual areas that are irrelevant for the task21. In the present experiments, participants generally had to attend to the auditory questions and build a mental model of them in working memory, leading to a high level of alpha power in visual cortex. However, at the moment that the answer could be retrieved in the main experiment, attention arguably shifted to preparing production of the answer. This would be at the cost of listening to and comprehending the ongoing question and of keeping a mental model of the question in working memory. This is compatible with a relative decrease of alpha power in parietal/occipital areas at that moment. In addition, retrieval of the correct answer and production preparation might involve visual imagery of the answer (e.g., James Bond), which might also lead to reduced alpha power in visual regions of the brain (cf. earlier findings of reduced alpha/beta power in a word generation task25). Such a shift from auditory attention and working memory to other processes (i.e., language production planning) probably does not happen (at least to the same degree) in the control experiment, because participants had to keep their full attention on the incoming speech in order to remember the complete question later on. This interpretation is further corroborated by additional analyses showing that reduced alpha power to the critical word in the main experiment is also found in comparison to a baseline immediately before the critical word (see Supplementary Fig. 4). This is consistent with an account in which participants attend to comprehension until the answer becomes known and then switch to production planning. That such an attention shift might be necessary is corroborated by recent research showing that sustained attention is important for language production processes, especially in a dual task situation26. However, this implies that language comprehension might suffer once production planning starts, an interesting avenue for future research.


Neural signatures of response planning occur midway through an incoming question in conversation.

Bögels S, Magyari L, Levinson SC - Sci Rep (2015)

Localizations of reduced alpha power for the critical words in the main experiment.Localizations of the reduced alpha power at TL1 (EARLY vs. LATE) are shown at the top and those at TL2 (LATE vs EARLY) are shown at the bottom. Colors indicate T-values.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4525376&req=5

f4: Localizations of reduced alpha power for the critical words in the main experiment.Localizations of the reduced alpha power at TL1 (EARLY vs. LATE) are shown at the top and those at TL2 (LATE vs EARLY) are shown at the bottom. Colors indicate T-values.
Mentions: These oscillatory effects might be interpreted in two different ways. First, reduced alpha (and beta) power has been associated with motor preparation (often then called mu desynchronization20). Thus, this effect could be related to preparing of motor responses needed for producing the answer. Second, alpha power changes have been associated with attentional and working memory effects21. To shed more light on the issue, we performed source localizations of the effects in the main experiment. At TL1 (EARLY vs. LATE; 9–14 Hz, 500–1500 ms; one cluster, p = .013) maxima for the reduced alpha effect were localized in parietal/occipital and posterior parts of the brain, most strongly in the left hemisphere (Fig. 4, top). At TL2 (LATE vs. EARLY; 9–14 Hz, 500–1500 ms), we found a marginally significant cluster (p = .08), also localizing to parietal and occipital areas (Fig. 4, bottom). Since these localizations are not in or close to the motor cortex, they therefore do not corroborate an interpretation related to motor preparation. A second interpretation, related to attention, notes that increased alpha power in the posterior (occipital/parietal) part of the brain has been associated with attention to auditory input212223 and a high working memory load24, possibly to actively inhibit visual areas that are irrelevant for the task21. In the present experiments, participants generally had to attend to the auditory questions and build a mental model of them in working memory, leading to a high level of alpha power in visual cortex. However, at the moment that the answer could be retrieved in the main experiment, attention arguably shifted to preparing production of the answer. This would be at the cost of listening to and comprehending the ongoing question and of keeping a mental model of the question in working memory. This is compatible with a relative decrease of alpha power in parietal/occipital areas at that moment. In addition, retrieval of the correct answer and production preparation might involve visual imagery of the answer (e.g., James Bond), which might also lead to reduced alpha power in visual regions of the brain (cf. earlier findings of reduced alpha/beta power in a word generation task25). Such a shift from auditory attention and working memory to other processes (i.e., language production planning) probably does not happen (at least to the same degree) in the control experiment, because participants had to keep their full attention on the incoming speech in order to remember the complete question later on. This interpretation is further corroborated by additional analyses showing that reduced alpha power to the critical word in the main experiment is also found in comparison to a baseline immediately before the critical word (see Supplementary Fig. 4). This is consistent with an account in which participants attend to comprehension until the answer becomes known and then switch to production planning. That such an attention shift might be necessary is corroborated by recent research showing that sustained attention is important for language production processes, especially in a dual task situation26. However, this implies that language comprehension might suffer once production planning starts, an interesting avenue for future research.

Bottom Line: Combining an interactive quiz paradigm with EEG measurements in an innovative way, we show that production planning processes start as soon as possible, that is, within half a second after the answer to a question can be retrieved (up to several seconds before the end of the question).Finally, oscillation results suggest an attention switch from comprehension to production around the same time frame.This perspective from interactive language use throws new light on the performance characteristics that language competence involves.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

ABSTRACT
A striking puzzle about language use in everyday conversation is that turn-taking latencies are usually very short, whereas planning language production takes much longer. This implies overlap between language comprehension and production processes, but the nature and extent of such overlap has never been studied directly. Combining an interactive quiz paradigm with EEG measurements in an innovative way, we show that production planning processes start as soon as possible, that is, within half a second after the answer to a question can be retrieved (up to several seconds before the end of the question). Localization of ERP data shows early activation even of brain areas related to late stages of production planning (e.g., syllabification). Finally, oscillation results suggest an attention switch from comprehension to production around the same time frame. This perspective from interactive language use throws new light on the performance characteristics that language competence involves.

No MeSH data available.