Theta oscillations mediate preactivation of highly expected word initial phonemes
Monsalve, Irene F.
MetadataShow full item record
Monsalve, I.F., Bourguignon, M., & Molinaro, N. (2018). Theta oscillations mediate pre-activation of highly expected word initial phonemes. Scientific Reports, 8:9503. Doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-27898-w
Prediction has been proposed to be a fundamental neurocognitive mechanism. However, its role in language comprehension is currently under debate. In this magnetoencephalography study we aimed to find evidence of word-form phonological pre-activation and to characterize the oscillatory mechanisms supporting this. Participants were presented firstly with a picture of an object, and then, after a delay (fixed or variable), they heard the corresponding word. Target words could contain a phoneme substitution, and participants’ task was to detect mispronunciations. Word-initial phonemes were either fricatives or plosives, generating two experimental conditions (expect-fricative and expect-plosive). In the pre-word interval, significant differences (α = 0.05) emerged between conditions both for fixed and variable delays. Source reconstruction of this effect showed a brain-wide network involving several frequency bands, including bilateral superior temporal areas commonly associated with phonological processing, in a theta range. These results show that phonological representations supported by the theta band may be active before word onset, even under temporal uncertainty. However, in the evoked response just prior to the word, differences between conditions were apparent under variable- but not fixed-delays. This suggests that additional top-down mechanisms sensitive to phonological form may be recruited when there is uncertainty in the signal.