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1.  Semantic Interference in a Delayed Naming Task: Evidence for the Response Exclusion Hypothesis 
In 2 experiments participants named pictures of common objects with superimposed distractor words. In one naming condition, the pictures and words were presented simultaneously on every trial, and participants produced the target response immediately. In the other naming condition, the presentation of the picture preceded the presentation of the distractor by 1,000 ms, and participants delayed production of their naming response until distractor word presentation. Within each naming condition, the distractor words were either semantic category coordinates of the target pictures or unrelated. Orthogonal to this manipulation of semantic relatedness, the frequency of the pictures’ names was manipulated. The authors observed semantic interference effects in both the immediate and delayed naming conditions but a frequency effect only in the immediate naming condition. These data indicate that semantic interference can be observed when target picture naming latencies do not reflect the bottleneck at the level of lexical selection. In the context of other findings from the picture–word interference paradigm, the authors interpret these data as supporting the view that the semantic interference effect arises at a postlexical level of processing.
PMCID: PMC2908266  PMID: 18194068
semantic interference effect; lexical selection by competition; picture-word interference; delayed naming; response exclusion hypothesis
2.  Picture-Induced Semantic Interference Reflects Lexical Competition during Object Naming 
With a picture–picture experiment, we contrasted competitive and non-competitive models of lexical selection during language production. Participants produced novel noun–noun compounds in response to two adjacently displayed objects that were categorically related or unrelated (e.g., depicted objects: apple and cherry; naming response: “apple–cherry”). We observed semantic interference, with slower compound naming for related relative to unrelated pictures, very similar to interference effects produced by semantically related context words in picture–word-interference paradigms. This finding suggests that previous failures to observe reliable interference induced by context pictures may be due to the weakness of lexical activation and competition induced by pictures, relative to words. The production of both picture names within one integrated compound word clearly enhances lexical activation, resulting in measurable interference effects. We interpret this interference as resulting from lexical competition, because the alternative interpretation, in terms of response-exclusion from the articulatory buffer, does not apply to pictures, even when they are named.
PMCID: PMC3281281  PMID: 22363304
speech production; picture–picture interference; lexical competition; compound naming
3.  Factors Determining Semantic Facilitation and Interference in the Cyclic Naming Paradigm 
The cyclic naming paradigm, in which participants are slower to name pictures blocked by semantic category than pictures in an unrelated context, offers a window into the dynamics of the mapping between lexical concepts and words. Here we provide evidence for the view that incremental adjustments to the connection weights from semantics to lexical items provides an elegant explanation of a range of observations within the cyclic naming paradigm. Our principal experimental manipulation is to vary the within-category semantic distance among items that must be named together in a block. In the first set of experiments we find that naming latencies are, if anything, faster for within-category semantically close blocks compared to within-category semantically far blocks, for the first presentation of items. This effect can be explained by the fact that there will be more spreading activation, and thus greater priming at the lexical level, for within-category semantically close blocks than within-category semantically far blocks. We test this explanation by inserting intervening filler items (geometric shapes), and show as predicted, that while intervening unrelated trials abolish short-lived semantic priming effects, the long-lag interference effect that is characteristic of this paradigm is unaffected. These data place new constraints on explanations of the cyclic naming effect, and related phenomena, within a model of language production.
PMCID: PMC3283118  PMID: 22363309
lexical access; speech production; semantic interference; semantic facilitation; semantic distance; cyclic naming paradigm
4.  What Phonological Facilitation Tells about Semantic Interference: A Dual-Task Study 
Despite increasing interest in the topic, the extent to which linguistic processing demands attentional resources remains poorly understood. We report an empirical re-examination of claims about lexical processing made on the basis of the picture–word interference task when merged in a dual-task psychological refractory period (PRP) paradigm. Two experiments were conducted in which participants were presented with a tone followed, at varying stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs), by a picture–word stimulus. In Experiment 1, the phonological relatedness between pictures and words was manipulated. Begin- and end-related words decreased picture naming latencies relative to unrelated words. This effect was additive with SOA effects. In Experiment 2, both the semantic and the phonological relatedness between pictures and words were manipulated. Replicating Experiment 1, effects arising from the phonological manipulation were additive with SOA effects on picture naming latencies. In contrast, effects arising from the semantic manipulation were under additive with SOA effects on picture naming latencies, that is, semantic interference decreased as SOA was decreased. Such contrastive pattern suggests that semantic and phonological effects on picture naming latencies are characterized by distinguishable sources, the former prior to the PRP bottleneck and the latter at the PRP bottleneck or after. The present findings are discussed in relation to current models of language production.
PMCID: PMC3110840  PMID: 21716584
language production; dual-task; picture–word interference; phonological facilitation; semantic interference
5.  The Role of Lexical-Semantic Neighborhood in Object Naming: Implications for Models of Lexical Access 
The role of lexical-semantic neighborhood is relevant to models of lexical access. Recently it has been claimed that the size of the cohort of activated competitors affects ease of lexical selection in word production as well as the effect of semantically related distractors in picture–word interference tasks. Three experiments are reported in which subjects had to name pictures from large and small semantic categories (cf. “lion,” “hammer” versus “funnel,” “cage”). In Experiment 1, naming-impaired subjects exhibited semantic errors for targets from large categories. No semantic but many omission errors occurred for targets from small categories suggesting that few competitors were available for these “low competition targets.” In contrast in two experiments with unimpaired subjects, targets were named equally fast. These experiments were sensitive enough to yield a highly significant repetition effect in Experiment 2. Contrary to the explicit predictions of a recent proposal, semantically related distractors caused interference for both groups of words in Experiment 3. The results suggest no role of neighborhood size in the naming of unimpaired individuals. Implications for models of lexical selection are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3114073  PMID: 21713062
speech production; lexical access; competition; interference; lexical-semantic cohorts
6.  The word class effect in the picture–word interference paradigm 
The word class effect in the picture–word interference paradigm is a highly influential finding that has provided some of the most compelling support for word class constraints on lexical selection. However, methodological concerns called for a replication of the most convincing of those effects. Experiment 1 was a direct replication of Pechmann and Zerbst (2002; Experiment 4). Participants named pictures of objects in the context of noun and adverb distractors. Naming took place in bare noun and sentence frame contexts. A word class effect emerged in both bare noun and sentence frame naming conditions, suggesting a semantic origin of the effect. In Experiment 2, participants named objects in the context of noun and verb distractors whose word class relationship to the target and imageability were orthogonally manipulated. As before, naming took place in bare noun and sentence frame naming contexts. In both naming contexts, distractor imageability but not word class affected picture naming latencies. These findings confirm the sensitivity of the picture–word interference paradigm to distractor imageability and suggest the paradigm is not sensitive to distractor word class. The results undermine the use of the word class effect in the picture–word interference paradigm as supportive of word class constraints during lexical selection.
PMCID: PMC2908256  PMID: 19998070
Lexical access; Lexical selection; Grammatical class; Imageability; Picture–word interference
7.  The dark side of incremental learning: A model of cumulative semantic interference during lexical access in speech production 
Cognition  2009;114(2):227-252.
Naming a picture of a dog primes the subsequent naming of a picture of a dog (repetition priming) and interferes with the subsequent naming of a picture of a cat (semantic interference). Behavioral studies suggest that these effects derive from persistent changes in the way that words are activated and selected for production, and some have claimed that the findings are only understandable by positing a competitive mechanism for lexical selection. We present a simple model of lexical retrieval in speech production that applies error-driven learning to its lexical activation network. This model naturally produces repetition priming and semantic interference effects. It predicts the major findings from several published experiments, demonstrating that these effects may arise from incremental learning. Furthermore, analysis of the model suggests that competition during lexical selection is not necessary for semantic interference if the learning process is itself competitive.
PMCID: PMC2924492  PMID: 19854436
8.  Distractor strength and selective attention in picture-naming performance 
Memory & Cognition  2011;40(4):614-627.
Whereas it has long been assumed that competition plays a role in lexical selection in word production (e.g., Levelt, Roelofs, & Meyer, 1999), recently Finkbeiner and Caramazza (2006) argued against the competition assumption on the basis of their observation that visible distractors yield semantic interference in picture naming, whereas masked distractors yield semantic facilitation. We examined an alternative account of these findings that preserves the competition assumption. According to this account, the interference and facilitation effects of distractor words reflect whether or not distractors are strong enough to exceed a threshold for entering the competition process. We report two experiments in which distractor strength was manipulated by means of coactivation and visibility. Naming performance was assessed in terms of mean response time (RT) and RT distributions. In Experiment 1, with low coactivation, semantic facilitation was obtained from clearly visible distractors, whereas poorly visible distractors yielded no semantic effect. In Experiment 2, with high coactivation, semantic interference was obtained from both clearly and poorly visible distractors. These findings support the competition threshold account of the polarity of semantic effects in naming.
PMCID: PMC3337410  PMID: 22200912
Competition; Lexical selection; Masking; Picture naming; Selective attention; Psychology; Cognitive Psychology
9.  When zebras become painted donkeys: Grammatical gender and semantic priming interact during picture integration in a spoken Spanish sentence 
Language and cognitive processes  2007;20(4):553-587.
This study investigates the contribution of grammatical gender to integrating depicted nouns into sentences during on-line comprehension, and whether semantic congruity and gender agreement interact using two tasks: naming and semantic judgement of pictures. Native Spanish speakers comprehended spoken Spanish sentences with an embedded line drawing, which replaced a noun that either made sense or not with the preceding sentence context and either matched or mismatched the gender of the preceding article. In Experiment 1a (picture naming) slower naming times were found for gender mismatching pictures than matches, as well as for semantically incongruous pictures than congruous ones. In addition, the effects of gender agreement and semantic congruity interacted; specifically, pictures that were both semantically incongruous and gender mismatching were named slowest, but not as slow as if adding independent delays from both violations. Compared with a neutral baseline, with pictures embedded in simple command sentences like “Now please say ____”, both facilitative and inhibitory effects were observed. Experiment 1b replicated these results with low-cloze gender-neutral sentences, more similar in structure and processing demands to the experimental sentences. In Experiment 2, participants judged a picture’s semantic fit within a sentence by button-press; gender agreement and semantic congruity again interacted, with gender agreement having an effect on congruous but not incongruous pictures. Two distinct effects of gender are hypothesised: a “global” predictive effect (observed with and without overt noun production), and a “local” inhibitory effect (observed only with production of gender-discordant nouns).
PMCID: PMC3389823  PMID: 22773871
10.  Neural mechanisms underlying the facilitation of naming in aphasia using a semantic task: an fMRI study 
BMC Neuroscience  2012;13:98.
Previous attempts to investigate the effects of semantic tasks on picture naming in both healthy controls and people with aphasia have typically been confounded by inclusion of the phonological word form of the target item. As a result, it is difficult to isolate any facilitatory effects of a semantically-focused task to either lexical-semantic or phonological processing. This functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study examined the neurological mechanisms underlying short-term (within minutes) and long-term (within days) facilitation of naming from a semantic task that did not include the phonological word form, in both participants with aphasia and age-matched controls.
Behavioral results showed that a semantic task that did not include the phonological word form can successfully facilitate subsequent picture naming in both healthy controls and individuals with aphasia. The whole brain neuroimaging results for control participants identified a repetition enhancement effect in the short-term, with modulation of activity found in regions that have not traditionally been associated with semantic processing, such as the right lingual gyrus (extending to the precuneus) and the left inferior occipital gyrus (extending to the fusiform gyrus). In contrast, the participants with aphasia showed significant differences in activation over both the short- and the long-term for facilitated items, predominantly within either left hemisphere regions linked to semantic processing or their right hemisphere homologues.
For control participants in this study, the short-lived facilitation effects of a prior semantic task that did not include the phonological word form were primarily driven by object priming and episodic memory mechanisms. However, facilitation effects appeared to engage a predominantly semantic network in participants with aphasia over both the short- and the long-term. The findings of the present study also suggest that right hemisphere involvement may be supportive rather than maladaptive, and that a large distributed perisylvian network in both cerebral hemispheres supports the facilitation of naming in individuals with aphasia.
PMCID: PMC3477078  PMID: 22882806
Aphasia; Semantic verification; fMRI; Overt picture naming; Semantics
11.  Lexical-semantic Activation in Broca’s and Wernicke’s Aphasia: Evidence from Eye Movements 
Journal of cognitive neuroscience  2008;20(4):592-612.
Lexical processing requires both activating stored representations, and selecting among active candidates. The current work uses an eye-tracking paradigm to conduct a detailed temporal investigation of lexical processing. Patients with Broca's and Wernicke's aphasia are studied to shed light on the roles of anterior and posterior brain regions in lexical processing as well as the effects of lexical competition on such processing. Experiment 1 investigates whether objects semantically related to an uttered word are preferentially fixated, e.g., given the auditory target 'hammer', do participants fixate a picture of a nail? Results show that, like normals, both groups of patients are more likely to fixate on an object semantically related to the target than an unrelated object. Experiment 2 explores whether Broca's and Wernicke's aphasics show competition effects when words share onsets with the uttered word, e.g., given the auditory target 'hammer', do participants fixate a picture of a hammock? Experiment 3 investigates whether these patients activate words semantically related to onset competitors of the uttered word, e.g., given the auditory target 'hammock' do participants fixate a nail due to partial activation of the onset competitor hammer? Results of Experiments 2 and 3 show pathological patterns of performance for both Broca's and Wernicke's aphasics under conditions of lexical onset competition. However, the patterns of deficit differed, suggesting different functional and computational roles for anterior and posterior areas in lexical processing. Implications of the findings for the functional architecture of the lexical processing system and its potential neural substrates are considered.
PMCID: PMC3474198  PMID: 18052783
Broca’s aphasia; Wernicke’s aphasia; spoken word recognition; eye movements; cohort competition; semantic activation; lexical access
12.  Written distractor words influence brain activity during overt picture naming 
Language production requires multiple stages of processing (e.g., semantic retrieval, lexical selection), each of which may involve distinct brain regions. Distractor words can be combined with picture naming to examine factors that influence language production. Phonologically-related distractors have been found to speed picture naming (facilitation), while slower response times and decreased accuracy (interference) generally occur when a distractor is categorically related to the target image. However, other types of semantically-related distractors have been reported to produce a facilitative effect (e.g., associative, part-whole). The different pattern of results for different types of semantically-related distractors raises the question about how the nature of the semantic relation influences the effect of the distractor. To explore the nature of these semantic effects further, we used functional MRI to examine the influence of four types of written distractors on brain activation during overt picture naming. Distractors began with the same sound, were categorically-related, part of the object to be named, or were unrelated to the picture. Phonologically-related trials elicited greater activation than both semantic conditions (categorically-related and part-whole) in left insula and bilateral parietal cortex, regions that have been attributed to phonological aspects of production and encoding, respectively. Semantic conditions elicited greater activation than phonological trials in left posterior MTG, a region that has been linked to concept retrieval and semantic integration. Overall, the two semantic conditions did not differ substantially in their functional activation which suggests a similarity in the semantic demands and lexical competition across these two conditions.
PMCID: PMC3970014  PMID: 24715859
language; overt production; fMRI; picture-word interference; phonology; semantics
13.  Where (in the brain) do semantic errors come from? 
Semantic errors result from the disruption of access either to semantics or to lexical representations. One way to determine the origins of these errors is to evaluate comprehension of words that elicit semantic errors in naming. We hypothesized that in acute stroke there are different brain regions where dysfunction results in semantic errors in both naming and comprehension versus those with semantic errors in oral naming alone.
A consecutive series of 196 patients with acute left hemispheric stroke who met inclusion criteria were evaluated with oral naming and spoken word/picture verification tasks and magnetic resonance imaging within 48 hours of stroke onset. We evaluated the relationship between tissue dysfunction in 10 pre-specified Brodmann's areas (BA) and the production of coordinate semantic errors resulting from (1) semantic deficits or (2) lexical access deficits.
Semantic errors arising from semantic deficits were most associated with tissue dysfunction/infarct of left BA 22. Semantic errors resulting from lexical access deficits were associated with hypoperfusion/infarct of left BA 37.
Our study shows that semantic errors arising from damage to distinct cognitive processes reflect dysfunction of different brain regions.
PMCID: PMC2659726  PMID: 19084219
aphasia; perfusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging; semantics; acute ischemic stroke
14.  Distinct Patterns of Brain Activity Characterise Lexical Activation and Competition in Spoken Word Production 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e88674.
According to a prominent theory of language production, concepts activate multiple associated words in memory, which enter into competition for selection. However, only a few electrophysiological studies have identified brain responses reflecting competition. Here, we report a magnetoencephalography study in which the activation of competing words was manipulated by presenting pictures (e.g., dog) with distractor words. The distractor and picture name were semantically related (cat), unrelated (pin), or identical (dog). Related distractors are stronger competitors to the picture name because they receive additional activation from the picture relative to other distractors. Picture naming times were longer with related than unrelated and identical distractors. Phase-locked and non-phase-locked activity were distinct but temporally related. Phase-locked activity in left temporal cortex, peaking at 400 ms, was larger on unrelated than related and identical trials, suggesting differential activation of alternative words by the picture-word stimuli. Non-phase-locked activity between roughly 350–650 ms (4–10 Hz) in left superior frontal gyrus was larger on related than unrelated and identical trials, suggesting differential resolution of the competition among the alternatives, as reflected in the naming times. These findings characterise distinct patterns of activity associated with lexical activation and competition, supporting the theory that words are selected by competition.
PMCID: PMC3928283  PMID: 24558410
15.  The Effect of Grammatical Gender and Semantic Context on Lexical Access in Italian Using a Timed Word-Naming Paradigm 
The effects of sentence context and grammatical gender on lexical access were investigated in Italian using a timed word-naming paradigm. Large main effects of both sentence context and the gender of the article were observed; the interaction between gender and semantics was significant over subjects. Strong facilitation by both gender and semantics was observed, relative to a neutral-control baseline condition. Results are compared with (1) a prior study with the same design, using a picture-naming paradigm, except that objects described by written words were replaced by pictures (Bentrovato, Devescovi, D’Amico, & Bates, 1999); (2) a separate norming study of timed word reading in a list format, using the same stimuli (D’Amico, Devescovi, & Bates, 2001); and (3) a prior study of German comparing word and picture naming in short, semantically neutral phrases (Jacobsen, 1999). Differences in methodology and in findings between the Italian word naming and the German word naming are compared and discussed. Findings of the present study are interpreted in support of interactive-activation models in which different sources of information are combined on-line to predict, anticipate, or preactivate lexical targets.
PMCID: PMC3385651  PMID: 12964523
Lexical access; word reading; sentence priming
16.  Early Goal-Directed Top-Down Influences in the Production of Speech 
It was recently reported that the conscious intention to produce speech affects the speed with which lexical information is retrieved upon presentation of an object (Strijkers et al., 2011). The goal of the present study was to elaborate further on the role of these top-down influences in the course of planning speech behavior. In an event-related potentials (ERP) experiment, participants were required to overtly name pictures and words in one block of trials, while categorizing the same stimuli in another block of trials. The ERPs elicited by the naming task started to diverge very early on (∼170 ms) from those elicited by the semantic categorization task. Interestingly, these early ERP differences related to task intentionality were identical for pictures and words. From these results we conclude that (a) in line with Strijkers et al. (2011), goal-directed processes play a crucial role very early on in speech production, and (b) these task-driven top-down influences function at least in a domain-general manner by modulating those networks which are always relevant for the production of language, irrespective of which cortical pathways are triggered by the input.
PMCID: PMC3234706  PMID: 22163224
speech production; goal-directed processing; lexical access; ERPs; categorization
17.  Bilingual processing of ASL-English code-blends: The consequences of accessing two lexical representations simultaneously 
Journal of memory and language  2012;67(1):199-210.
Bilinguals who are fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) and English often produce code-blends - simultaneously articulating a sign and a word while conversing with other ASL-English bilinguals. To investigate the cognitive mechanisms underlying code-blend processing, we compared picture-naming times (Experiment 1) and semantic categorization times (Experiment 2) for code-blends versus ASL signs and English words produced alone. In production, code-blending did not slow lexical retrieval for ASL and actually facilitated access to low-frequency signs. However, code-blending delayed speech production because bimodal bilinguals synchronized English and ASL lexical onsets. In comprehension, code-blending speeded access to both languages. Bimodal bilinguals’ ability to produce code-blends without any cost to ASL implies that the language system either has (or can develop) a mechanism for switching off competition to allow simultaneous production of close competitors. Code-blend facilitation effects during comprehension likely reflect cross-linguistic (and cross-modal) integration at the phonological and/or semantic levels. The absence of any consistent processing costs for code-blending illustrates a surprising limitation on dual-task costs and may explain why bimodal bilinguals code-blend more often than they code-switch.
PMCID: PMC3389804  PMID: 22773886
bilingualism; lexical access; sign language
18.  Lexical–semantic priming effects during infancy 
When and how do infants develop a semantic system of words that are related to each other? We investigated word–word associations in early lexical development using an adaptation of the inter-modal preferential looking task where word pairs (as opposed to single target words) were used to direct infants’ attention towards a target picture. Two words (prime and target) were presented in quick succession after which infants were presented with a picture pair (target and distracter). Prime–target word pairs were either semantically and associatively related or unrelated; the targets were either named or unnamed. Experiment 1 demonstrated a lexical–semantic priming effect for 21-month olds but not for 18-month olds: unrelated prime words interfered with linguistic target identification for 21-month olds. Follow-up experiments confirmed the interfering effects of unrelated prime words and identified the existence of repetition priming effects as young as 18 months of age. The results of these experiments indicate that infants have begun to develop semantic–associative links between lexical items as early as 21 months of age.
PMCID: PMC2846315  PMID: 19933137
language development; mental lexicon; infancy; semantic priming; associative priming
19.  Contrasting Effects of Errorless Naming Treatment and Gestural Facilitation for Word Retrieval in Aphasia 
Neuropsychological Rehabilitation  2011;22(2):235-266.
We compared the effects of two treatments for aphasic word retrieval impairments, errorless naming treatment (ENT) and gestural facilitation of naming (GES), within the same individuals, anticipating that the use of gesture would enhance the effect of treatment over errorless treatment alone. In addition to picture naming, we evaluated results for other outcome measures that were largely untested in earlier ENT studies.
In a single participant crossover treatment design, we examined the effects of ENT and GES in eight individuals with stroke-induced aphasia and word retrieval impairments (three semantic anomia, five phonologic anomia) in counterbalanced phases across participants. We evaluated effects of the two treatments for a daily picture naming/gesture production probe measure and in standardized aphasia tests and communication rating scales administered across phases of the experiment.
Both treatments led to improvements in naming of trained words (small-to-large effect sizes) in individuals with semantic and phonologic anomia. Small generalized naming improvements were noted for three individuals with phonologic anomia. GES improved use of corresponding gestures for trained words (large effect sizes). Results were largely maintained at one month post treatment completion. Increases in scores on standardized aphasia testing also occurred for both ENT and GES training.
Both ENT and GES led to improvements in naming measures, with no clear difference between treatments. Increased use of gestures following GES providing a potential compensatory means of communication for those who did not improve verbal skills. Both treatments are considered to be effective methods to promote recovery of word retrieval and verbal production skills in individuals with aphasia.
PMCID: PMC3290698  PMID: 22047100
aphasia; anomia; rehabilitation; errorless; speech therapy
20.  When does word frequency influence written production? 
The aim of the present study was to explore the central (e.g., lexical processing) and peripheral processes (motor preparation and execution) underlying word production during typewriting. To do so, we tested non-professional typers in a picture typing task while continuously recording EEG. Participants were instructed to write (by means of a standard keyboard) the corresponding name for a given picture. The lexical frequency of the words was manipulated: half of the picture names were of high-frequency while the remaining were of low-frequency. Different measures were obtained: (1) first keystroke latency and (2) keystroke latency of the subsequent letters and duration of the word. Moreover, ERPs locked to the onset of the picture presentation were analyzed to explore the temporal course of word frequency in typewriting. The results showed an effect of word frequency for the first keystroke latency but not for the duration of the word or the speed to which letter were typed (interstroke intervals). The electrophysiological results showed the expected ERP frequency effect at posterior sites: amplitudes for low-frequency words were more positive than those for high-frequency words. However, relative to previous evidence in the spoken modality, the frequency effect appeared in a later time-window. These results demonstrate two marked differences in the processing dynamics underpinning typing compared to speaking: First, central processing dynamics between speaking and typing differ already in the manner that words are accessed; second, central processing differences in typing, unlike speaking, do not cascade to peripheral processes involved in response execution.
PMCID: PMC3870946  PMID: 24399980
written word production; typewriting; central and peripheral processes; lexical frequency
21.  Covert Processing of Words and Pictures in Nonsemantic Variants of Primary Progressive Aphasia 
The inability to name objects (anomia) is one of the most common findings in the neurologic examination of primary progressive aphasia (PPA). In the semantic variant of PPA, the anomia is profound and reflects a combination of object naming and word comprehension deficits. In contrast, nonsemantic variants of PPA display a more selective impairment of object naming, without corresponding impairments of word comprehension. The aim of the present study was to explore the nature of the anomia in nonsemantic variants of PPA with a sensitive chronometric test of covert word/picture association. We tested priming effects in 12 patients with nonsemantic variant of PPA and 18 controls. Stimuli consisted of written words and line pictures of concrete objects. Within-format (word-word and picture-picture) and cross-format (word-picture and picture-word) priming effects were assessed by measuring the shortening of response times to the second versus initial presentation of corresponding stimulus pairs. In addition to the expected impairment of picture-to-word priming, a condition simulating object naming, the nonsemantic PPA patients also showed unexpected impairments of word-to-picture and word-to-word priming. Picture-to-picture priming was preserved, demonstrating the selectivity of the deficit for lexical processing. These findings show that the information processing bottleneck in patients with nonsemantic variants of PPA is not confined to the stage of lexical access but that it also extends into the prior levels of lexical semantics. The boundaries between the semantic and nonsemantic variants are therefore far from rigid.
PMCID: PMC2757061  PMID: 18580588
dementia; frontotemporal dementia; priming; naming; anomia
22.  Are phonological influences on lexical (mis)selection the result of a monitoring bias? 
A monitoring bias account is often used to explain speech error patterns that seem to be the result of an interactive language production system, like phonological influences on lexical selection errors. A biased monitor is suggested to detect and covertly correct certain errors more often than others. For instance, this account predicts that errors which are phonologically similar to intended words are harder to detect than ones that are phonologically dissimilar. To test this, we tried to elicit phonological errors under the same conditions that show other kinds of lexical selection errors. In five experiments, we presented participants with high cloze probability sentence fragments followed by a picture that was either semantically related, a homophone of a semantically related word, or phonologically related to the (implicit) last word of the sentence. All experiments elicited semantic completions or homophones of semantic completions, but none elicited phonological completions. This finding is hard to reconcile with a monitoring bias account and is better explained with an interactive production system. Additionally, this finding constrains the amount of bottom-up information flow in interactive models.
PMCID: PMC2654172  PMID: 18942035
23.  The Role of Grammatical Category Information in Spoken Word Retrieval 
We investigated the role of lexical syntactic information such as grammatical gender and category in spoken word retrieval processes by using a blocking paradigm in picture and written word naming experiments. In Experiments 1, 3, and 4, we found that the naming of target words (nouns) from pictures or written words was faster when these target words were named within a list where only words from the same grammatical category had to be produced (homogeneous category list: all nouns) than when they had to be produced within a list comprising also words from another grammatical category (heterogeneous category list: nouns and verbs). On the other hand, we detected no significant facilitation effect when the target words had to be named within a homogeneous gender list (all masculine nouns) compared to a heterogeneous gender list (both masculine and feminine nouns). In Experiment 2, using the same blocking paradigm by manipulating the semantic category of the items, we found that naming latencies were significantly slower in the semantic category homogeneous in comparison with the semantic category heterogeneous condition. Thus semantic category homogeneity caused an interference, not a facilitation effect like grammatical category homogeneity. Finally, in Experiment 5, nouns in the heterogeneous category condition had to be named just after a verb (category-switching position) or a noun (same-category position). We found a facilitation effect of category homogeneity but no significant effect of position, which showed that the effect of category homogeneity found in Experiments 1, 3, and 4 was not due to a cost of switching between grammatical categories in the heterogeneous grammatical category list. These findings supported the hypothesis that grammatical category information impacts word retrieval processes in speech production, even when words are to be produced in isolation. They are discussed within the context of extant theories of lexical production.
PMCID: PMC3217219  PMID: 22110465
speech production; word retrieval; grammatical category; word class; gender; picture naming; word naming
24.  When Language Switching has No Apparent Cost: Lexical Access in Sentence Context 
We report two experiments that investigate the effects of sentence context on bilingual lexical access in Spanish and English. Highly proficient Spanish-English bilinguals read sentences in Spanish and English that included a marked word to be named. The word was either a cognate with similar orthography and/or phonology in the two languages, or a matched non-cognate control. Sentences appeared in one language alone (i.e., Spanish or English) and target words were not predictable on the basis of the preceding semantic context. In Experiment 1, we mixed the language of the sentence within a block such that sentences appeared in an alternating run in Spanish or in English. These conditions partly resemble normally occurring inter-sentential code-switching. In these mixed-language sequences, cognates were named faster than non-cognates in both languages. There were no effects of switching the language of the sentence. In Experiment 2, with Spanish-English bilinguals matched closely to those who participated in the first experiment, we blocked the language of the sentences to encourage language-specific processes. The results were virtually identical to those of the mixed-language experiment. In both cases, target cognates were named faster than non-cognates, and the magnitude of the effect did not change according to the broader context. Taken together, the results support the predictions of the Bilingual Interactive Activation + Model (Dijkstra and van Heuven, 2002) in demonstrating that bilingual lexical access is language non-selective even under conditions in which language-specific cues should enable selective processing. They also demonstrate that, in contrast to lexical switching from one language to the other, inter-sentential code-switching of the sort in which bilinguals frequently engage, imposes no significant costs to lexical processing.
PMCID: PMC3668438  PMID: 23750141
bilingualism; language switching; switch costs; lexical access; sentence context; cognates
25.  A funny thing happened on the way to articulation: N400 attenuation despite behavioral interference in picture naming 
Cognition  2012;123(1):84-99.
We measured Event-Related Potentials (ERPs) and naming times to picture targets preceded by masked words (stimulus onset asynchrony: 80 ms) that shared one of three different types of relationship with the names of the pictures: (1) Identity related, in which the prime was the name of the picture (“socks” – ), (2) Phonemic Onset related, in which the initial segment of the prime was the same as the name of the picture (“log” – ), and (3) Semantically related in which the prime was a co–category exemplar and associated with the name of the picture (“cake” – ). Each type of related picture target was contrasted with an Unrelated picture target, resulting in a 3 × 2 design that crossed Relationship Type between the word and the target picture (Identity, Phonemic Onset and Semantic) with Relatedness (Related and Unrelated). Modulation of the N400 component to related (versus unrelated) pictures was taken to reflect semantic processing at the interface between the picture's conceptual features and its lemma, while naming times reflected the end product of all stages of processing. Both attenuation of the N400 and shorter naming times were observed to pictures preceded by Identity related (versus Unrelated) words. No ERP effects within 600 ms, but shorter naming times, were observed to pictures preceded by Phonemic Onset related (versus Unrelated) words. An attenuated N400 (electrophysiological semantic priming) but longer naming times (behavioral semantic interference) were observed to pictures preceded by Semantically related (versus Unrelated) words. These dissociations between ERP modulation and naming times suggest that (a) phonemic onset priming occurred late, during encoding of the articulatory response, and (b) semantic behavioral interference was not driven by competition at the lemma level of representation, but rather occurred at a later stage of production.
PMCID: PMC3634574  PMID: 22245030
Semantic interference; Lexical selection; Response selection; Speech production; ERP; N400

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