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1.  The episodic buffer in children with intellectual disabilities: An exploratory study 
Research in Developmental Disabilities  2010;31(6-3):1609-1614.
Performance on three verbal measures (story recall, paired associated learning, category fluency) designed to assess the integration of long-term semantic and linguistic knowledge, phonological working memory and executive resources within the proposed ‘episodic buffer’ of working memory (Baddeley, 2007) was assessed in children with intellectual disabilities (ID). It was hypothesised that children with ID would show equivalent performance to typically developing children of the same mental age. This prediction was based on the hypothesis that, despite poorer phonological short-term memory than mental age matched peers, those with ID may benefit from more elaborate long-term memory representations, because of greater life experience. Children with ID were as able as mental age matched peers to remember stories, associate pairs of words together and generate appropriate items in a category fluency task. Performance did not, however, reach chronological age level on any of the tasks. The results suggest children with ID perform at mental age level on verbal ‘episodic buffer’ tasks, which require integration of information from difference sources, supporting a ‘delayed’ rather than ‘different’ view of their development.
doi:10.1016/j.ridd.2010.04.025
PMCID: PMC3025351  PMID: 20537508
Episodic buffer; Children; Intellectual disabilities; Working memory
2.  Lexical competition in young children’s word learning 
Cognitive psychology  2006;54(2):99-132.
In two experiments, 1.5 year olds were taught novel words whose sound patterns were phonologically similar to familiar words (novel neighbors) or were not (novel nonneighbors). Learning was tested using a picture fixation task. In both experiments, children learned the novel nonneighbors but not the novel neighbors. In addition, exposure to the novel neighbors impaired recognition performance on familiar neighbors. Finally, children did not spontaneously use phonological differences to infer that a novel word referred to a novel object. Thus, lexical competition—inhibitory interaction among words in speech comprehension—can prevent children from using their full phonological sensitivity in judging words as novel. These results suggest that word learning in young children, as in adults, relies not only on the discrimination and identification of phonetic categories, but also on evaluating the likelihood that an utterance conveys a new word.
doi:10.1016/j.cogpsych.2006.05.001
PMCID: PMC2613642  PMID: 17054932
word learning; language acquisition; phonology; categorization; child development
3.  Verbal short-term memory deficits in Down syndrome: phonological, semantic, or both? 
The current study examined the phonological and semantic contributions to the verbal short-term memory (VSTM) deficit in Down syndrome (DS) by experimentally manipulating the phonological and semantic demands of VSTM tasks. The performance of 18 individuals with DS (ages 11–25) and 18 typically developing children (ages 3–10) matched pairwise on receptive vocabulary and gender was compared on four VSTM tasks, two tapping phonological VSTM (phonological similarity, nonword discrimination) and two tapping semantic VSTM (semantic category, semantic proactive interference). Group by condition interactions were found on the two phonological VSTM tasks (suggesting less sensitivity to the phonological qualities of words in DS), but not on the two semantic VSTM tasks. These findings suggest that a phonological weakness contributes to the VSTM deficit in DS. These results are discussed in relation to the DS neuropsychological and neuroanatomical phenotype.
doi:10.1007/s11689-009-9029-4
PMCID: PMC3164030  PMID: 22127838
Down syndrome; Verbal short-term memory; Phonology; Semantics
4.  Effects of lexical competition on immediate memory span for spoken words 
Current theories and models of the structural organization of verbal short-term memory are primarily based on evidence obtained from manipulations of features inherent m the short-term traces of the presented stimuli, such as phonological similarity. In the present study, we investigated whether properties of the stimuli that are not inherent in the short-term traces of spoken words would affect performance in an immediate memory span task. We studied the lexical neighbourhood properties of the stimulus items, which are based on the structure and organization of words in the mental lexicon. The experiments manipulated lexical competition by varying the phonological neighbourhood structure (i.e., neighbourhood density and neighbourhood frequency) of the words on a test list while controlling for word frequency and intra-set phonological similarity (family size). Immediate memory span for spoken words was measured under repeated and nonrepeated sampling procedures. The results demonstrated that lexical competition only emerged when a nonrepeated sampling procedure was used and the participants had to access new words from their lexicons. These findings were not dependent on individual differences in short-term memory capacity. Additional results showed that the lexical competition effects did not interact with proactive interference. Analyses of error patterns indicated that item-type errors, but not positional errors, were influenced by the lexical attributes of the stimulus items. These results complement and extend previous findings that have argued for separate contributions of long-term knowledge and short-term memory rehearsal processes in immediate verbal serial recall tasks.
doi:10.1080/02724980244000710
PMCID: PMC3432939  PMID: 12881165
5.  Taxi vs. Taksi: On orthographic word recognition in the left ventral occipitotemporal cortex 
Journal of cognitive neuroscience  2007;19(10):1584-1594.
The importance of the left occipitotemporal cortex for visual word processing is highlighted by numerous functional neuroimaging studies, but the precise function of the Visual Word Form Area (VWFA) in this brain region is still under debate. The present fMRI study varied orthographic familiarity independent from phonological-semantic familiarity by presenting orthographically familiar and orthographically unfamiliar forms (pseudohomophones) of the same words in a phonological lexical decision task. Consistent with orthographic word recognition in the VWFA, we found lower activation for familiar compared to unfamiliar forms, but no difference between pseudohomophones and pseudowords. This orthographic familiarity effect in the VWFA differed from the phonological familiarity effect in left frontal regions, where phonologically unfamiliar pseudowords led to higher activation than phonologically familiar pseudohomophones. We suggest that the VWFA not only computes letter string representations but also hosts word specific orthographic representations. These representations function as recognition units with the effect that letter strings, which readily match with stored representations lead to less activation than letter strings which do not.
PMCID: PMC2989180  PMID: 17933023
Functional MRI; orthographic word recognition; visual word processing; occipitotemporal cortex; reading
6.  Two Systems of Maintenance in Verbal Working Memory: Evidence from the Word Length Effect 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e70026.
The extended time-based resource-sharing (TBRS) model suggested a working memory architecture in which an executive loop and a phonological loop could both support the maintenance of verbal information. The consequence of such a framework is that phonological effects known to impact the maintenance of verbal information, like the word length effect (WLE), should depend on the use of the phonological loop, but should disappear under the maintenance by the executive loop. In two previous studies, introducing concurrent articulation in complex span tasks barely affected WLE, contradicting the prediction from the TBRS model. The present study re-evaluated the WLE in a complex span task while controlling for time parameters and the amount of concurrent articulation. Specifically, we used a computer-paced span task in which participants remembered lists of either short or long words while concurrently either articulating or making a location judgment. Whereas the WLE appeared when participants remained silent, concurrent articulation eliminated the effect. Introducing a concurrent attention demand reduced recall, but did not affect WLE, and did not interact with concurrent articulation. These results support the existence of two systems of maintenance for verbal information.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0070026
PMCID: PMC3722204  PMID: 23894580
7.  Strength of Word-Specific Neural Memory Traces Assessed Electrophysiologically 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e22999.
Memory traces for words are frequently conceptualized neurobiologically as networks of neurons interconnected via reciprocal links developed through associative learning in the process of language acquisition. Neurophysiological reflection of activation of such memory traces has been reported using the mismatch negativity brain potential (MMN), which demonstrates an enhanced response to meaningful words over meaningless items. This enhancement is believed to be generated by the activation of strongly intraconnected long-term memory circuits for words that can be automatically triggered by spoken linguistic input and that are absent for unfamiliar phonological stimuli. This conceptual framework critically predicts different amounts of activation depending on the strength of the word's lexical representation in the brain. The frequent use of words should lead to more strongly connected representations, whereas less frequent items would be associated with more weakly linked circuits. A word with higher frequency of occurrence in the subject's language should therefore lead to a more pronounced lexical MMN response than its low-frequency counterpart. We tested this prediction by comparing the event-related potentials elicited by low- and high-frequency words in a passive oddball paradigm; physical stimulus contrasts were kept identical. We found that, consistent with our prediction, presenting the high-frequency stimulus led to a significantly more pronounced MMN response relative to the low-frequency one, a finding that is highly similar to previously reported MMN enhancement to words over meaningless pseudowords. Furthermore, activation elicited by the higher-frequency word peaked earlier relative to low-frequency one, suggesting more rapid access to frequently used lexical entries. These results lend further support to the above view on word memory traces as strongly connected assemblies of neurons. The speed and magnitude of their activation appears to be linked to the strength of internal connections in a memory circuit, which is in turn determined by the everyday use of language elements.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0022999
PMCID: PMC3154264  PMID: 21853063
8.  There are Multiple Contributors to the Verbal Short-term Memory Deficit in Children with Developmental Reading Disabilities 
Prior research has put forth at least four possible contributors to the verbal short-term memory (VSTM) deficit in children with developmental reading disabilities (RD): poor phonological awareness which affects phonological coding into VSTM, a less effective phonological store, slow articulation rate, and fewer/poorer quality long-term memory (LTM) representations. This project is among the first to test the four suppositions in one study. Participants included 18 children with RD and 18 controls. VSTM was assessed using Baddeley’s model of the phonological loop. Findings suggest all four suppositions are correct, depending upon the type of material utilized. Children with RD performed comparably to controls in VSTM for common words but worse for less frequent words and nonwords. Furthermore, only articulation rate predicted VSTM for common words, whereas Verbal IQ and articulation rate predicted VSTM for less frequent words, and phonological awareness and articulation rate predicted VSTM for nonwords. Overall, findings suggest that the mechanism(s) used to code and store items by their meaning is intact in RD, and the deficit in VSTM for less frequent words may be a result of fewer/poorer quality LTM representations for these words. In contrast, phonological awareness and the phonological store are impaired, affecting VSTM for items that are coded phonetically. Slow articulation rate likely affects VSTM for most material when present. When assessing reading performance, VSTM predicted decoding skill but not word identification after controlling Verbal IQ and phonological awareness. Thus, VSTM likely contributes to reading ability when words are novel and must be decoded.
doi:10.1080/09297040902748218
PMCID: PMC2891560  PMID: 19255881
learning disabilities; reading disabilities; dyslexia; phonological awareness; short-term memory; verbal learning; children; adolescents
9.  Memory Functioning in Developmental Dyslexia: An Analysis Using Two Clinical Memory Measures 
The goals of this project were threefold: to determine the nature of the memory deficit in children/adolescents with dyslexia, to utilize clinical memory measures in this endeavor, and to determine the extent to which semantic short-term memory (STM) is related to basic reading performance. Two studies were conducted using different samples, one incorporating the Wide Range Assessment of Memory and Learning and the other incorporating the California Verbal Learning Test-Children's Version. Results suggest that phonological STM is deficient in children with dyslexia, but semantic STM and visual–spatial STM are intact. Long-term memory (LTM) for both visual and verbal material also is intact. Regarding reading performance, semantic STM had small correlations with word identification and pseudoword decoding across studies despite phonological STM being moderately to strongly related to both basic reading skills. Overall, results are consistent with the phonological core deficit model of dyslexia as only phonological STM was affected in dyslexia and related to basic reading skill.
doi:10.1093/arclin/acp028
PMCID: PMC2765348  PMID: 19549724
Dyslexia; Reading disabilities; Child; Adolescent; Short-term memory; Long-term memory
10.  Dissociating Stimulus-Driven Semantic and Phonological Effect During Reading and Naming 
Human Brain Mapping  2006;28(3):205-217.
The aim of the present study was to dissociate the neural correlates of semantic and phonological processes during word reading and picture naming. Previous studies have addressed this issue by contrasting tasks involving semantic and phonological decisions. However, these tasks engage verbal short-term memory and executive functions that are not required for reading and naming. Here, 20 subjects were instructed to overtly name written words and pictures of objects while their neuronal responses were measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Each trial consisted of a pair of successive stimuli that were either semantically related (e.g., “ROBIN-nest”), phonologically related (e.g., “BELL-belt”), unrelated (e.g., “KITE-lobster”), or semantically and phonologically identical (e.g., “FRIDGE-fridge”). In addition, a pair of stimuli could be presented in either the same modality (word-word or picture-picture) or a different modality (word-picture or picture-word). We report that semantically related pairs modulate neuronal responses in a left-lateralized network, including the pars orbitalis of the inferior frontal gyrus, the middle temporal gyrus, the angular gyrus, and the superior frontal gyrus. We propose that these areas are involved in stimulus-driven semantic processes. In contrast, phonologically related pairs modulate neuronal responses in bilateral insula. This region is therefore implicated in the discrimination of similar, competing phonological and articulatory codes. The above effects were detected with both words and pictures and did not differ between the two modalities even with a less conservative statistical threshold. In conclusion, this study dissociates the effects of semantic and phonological relatedness between successive items during reading and naming aloud. Hum Brain Mapp, 2007. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
doi:10.1002/hbm.20272
PMCID: PMC3261378  PMID: 16767767
fMRI; language; phonology; semantics; reading; naming
11.  Similarities and Differences Between Working Memory and Long-Term Memory: Evidence From the Levels-of-Processing Span Task 
Two experiments compared the effects of depth of processing on working memory (WM) and long-term memory (LTM) using a levels-of-processing (LOP) span task, a newly developed WM span procedure that involves processing to-be-remembered words based on their visual, phonological, or semantic characteristics. Depth of processing had minimal effect on WM tests, yet subsequent memory for the same items on delayed tests showed the typical benefits of semantic processing. Although the difference in LOP effects demonstrates a dissociation between WM and LTM, we also found that the retrieval practice provided by recalling words on the WM task benefited long-term retention, especially for words initially recalled from supraspan lists. The latter result is consistent with the hypothesis that WM span tasks involve retrieval from secondary memory, but the LOP dissociation suggests the processes engaged by WM and LTM tests may differ. Therefore, similarities and differences between WM and LTM depend on the extent to which retrieval from secondary memory is involved and whether there is a match (or mismatch) between initial processing and subsequent retrieval, consistent with transfer-appropriate-processing theory.
doi:10.1037/a0018405
PMCID: PMC2832224  PMID: 20192543
short-term memory; working memory; secondary memory; long-term memory; levels of processing
12.  Fast Mapping and Word Learning by Preschoolers with SLI in a Supported Learning Context: Effect of Encoding Cues, Phonotactic Probability and Object Familiarity 
Purpose
This study investigated whether phonological or semantic encoding cues improved the fast mapping or word learning performance of preschoolers with specific language impairment (SLI) or typical development (TD) and whether performance varied for words containing high- or low-frequency sublexical sequences that named familiar or unfamiliar objects.
Method
Forty-two preschoolers with SLI, 42 preschoolers with TD matched for age and gender to children with SLI, and 41 preschoolers with TD matched for expressive vocabulary and gender to children with SLI learned words in a supported learning context. Fast mapping, word learning, and post-task performance were assessed.
Results
Encoding cues had no effect on fast mapping performance for any group, nor on the number of words children learned to comprehend. Encoding cues appeared to be detrimental to word production for children with TD. Across groups a clear learning advantage was observed for words with low-frequency sequences and to a lesser extent, words associated with an unfamiliar object.
Conclusions
Results suggest that phonotactic probability and previous lexical knowledge affect word learning in similar ways for children with TD and SLI and that encoding cues were not beneficial for any group.
doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2010/09-0285)
PMCID: PMC3032818  PMID: 20966382
13.  Sensitivity to Orthographic Familiarity in the Occipito-Temporal Region 
NeuroImage  2007;39(4):1988-2001.
The involvement of the left hemisphere occipito-temporal (OT) junction in reading has been established, yet there is current controversy over the region’s specificity for reading and the nature of its role in the reading process. Recent neuroimaging findings suggest that the region is sensitive to orthographic familiarity (Kronbichler et al., 2007), and the present study tested that hypothesis. Using fMRI, the OT region and other regions in the reading network were localized in 28 adult, right-handed participants. The BOLD signal in these regions was measured during a phonological judgment task (i.e., “Does it sound like a word?”). Stimuli included words, pseudohomophones (phonologically familiar yet orthographically unfamiliar), and pseudowords (phonologically and orthographically unfamiliar) that were matched on lexical properties including sublexical orthography. Relative to baseline, BOLD signal in the OT region was greater for pseudohomophones than for words, suggesting that the region is sensitive to orthographic familiarity at the whole-word level. Further contrasts of orthographic frequency within the word condition revealed increased BOLD signal for low- than high-frequency words. Specialization in the OT area for recognition of frequent letter strings may support the development of reading expertise. Additionally, BOLD signal in the OT region correlates positively with reading efficiency, supporting the idea that this region is a skill zone for reading printed words. BOLD signal in the IFG and STG correlate negatively with reading efficiency, indicating that processing effort in these classic phonological regions is inversely related to reading efficiency.
doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2007.10.044
PMCID: PMC2267437  PMID: 18180168
14.  Learning and Consolidation of Novel Spoken Words 
Journal of cognitive neuroscience  2009;21(4):803-820.
Two experiments explored the neural mechanisms underlying the learning and consolidation of novel spoken words. In Experiment 1, participants learned two sets of novel words on successive days. A subsequent recognition test revealed high levels of familiarity for both sets. However, a lexical decision task showed that only novel words learned on the previous day engaged in lexical competition with similar-sounding existing words. Additionally, only novel words learned on the previous day exhibited faster repetition latencies relative to unfamiliar controls. This overnight consolidation effect was further examined using fMRI to compare neural responses to existing and novel words learned on different days prior to scanning (Experiment 2). This revealed an elevated response for novel compared with existing words in left superior temporal gyrus (STG), inferior frontal and premotor regions, and right cerebellum. Cortical activation was of equivalent magnitude for unfamiliar novel words and items learned on the day of scanning but significantly reduced for novel words learned on the previous day. In contrast, hippocampal responses were elevated for novel words that were entirely unfamiliar, and this elevated response correlated with postscanning behavioral measures of word learning. These findings are consistent with a dual-learning system account in which there is a division of labor between medial-temporal systems that are involved in initial acquisition and neocortical systems in which representations of novel spoken words are subject to overnight consolidation.
doi:10.1162/jocn.2009.21059
PMCID: PMC2832742  PMID: 18578598
15.  Modelling reading development through phonological decoding and self-teaching: implications for dyslexia 
The most influential theory of learning to read is based on the idea that children rely on phonological decoding skills to learn novel words. According to the self-teaching hypothesis, each successful decoding encounter with an unfamiliar word provides an opportunity to acquire word-specific orthographic information that is the foundation of skilled word recognition. Therefore, phonological decoding acts as a self-teaching mechanism or ‘built-in teacher’. However, all previous connectionist models have learned the task of reading aloud through exposure to a very large corpus of spelling–sound pairs, where an ‘external’ teacher supplies the pronunciation of all words that should be learnt. Such a supervised training regimen is highly implausible. Here, we implement and test the developmentally plausible phonological decoding self-teaching hypothesis in the context of the connectionist dual process model. In a series of simulations, we provide a proof of concept that this mechanism works. The model was able to acquire word-specific orthographic representations for more than 25 000 words even though it started with only a small number of grapheme–phoneme correspondences. We then show how visual and phoneme deficits that are present at the outset of reading development can cause dyslexia in the course of reading development.
doi:10.1098/rstb.2012.0397
PMCID: PMC3866426  PMID: 24324240
phonological decoding; developmental dyslexia; computational modelling; reading development
16.  Evaluating Phonological Processing Skills in Children With Prelingual Deafness Who Use Cochlear Implants 
This study investigated the phonological processing skills of 29 children with prelingual, profound hearing loss with 4 years of cochlear implant experience. Results were group matched with regard to word-reading ability and mother’s educational level with the performance of 29 hearing children. Results revealed that it is possible to obtain a valid measure of phonological processing (PP) skills in children using CIs. They could complete rhyming tasks and were able to complete sound-based tasks using standard test materials provided by a commercial test distributor. The CI children completed tasks measuring PP, but there were performance differences between the CI users and the hearing children. The process of learning phonological awareness (PA) for the children with CIs was characterized by a longer, more protracted learning phase than their counterparts with hearing. Tests of phonological memory skills indicated that when the tasks were controlled for presentation method and response modality, there were no differences between the performance of children with CIs and their counterparts with hearing. Tests of rapid naming revealed that there were no differences between rapid letter and number naming between the two groups. Results yielded a possible PP test battery for children with CI experience.
doi:10.1093/deafed/enn013
PMCID: PMC2638700  PMID: 18424771
17.  Complex network structure influences processing in long-term and short-term memory 
Journal of memory and language  2012;67(1):30-44.
Complex networks describe how entities in systems interact; the structure of such networks is argued to influence processing. One measure of network structure, clustering coefficient, C, measures the extent to which neighbors of a node are also neighbors of each other. Previous psycholinguistic experiments found that the C of phonological word-forms influenced retrieval from the mental lexicon (that portion of long-term memory dedicated to language) during the on-line recognition and production of spoken words. In the present study we examined how network structure influences other retrieval processes in long- and short-term memory. In a false-memory task—examining long-term memory—participants falsely recognized more words with low- than high-C. In a recognition memory task—examining veridical memories in long-term memory—participants correctly recognized more words with low- than high-C. However, participants in a serial recall task—examining redintegration in short-term memory—recalled lists comprised of high-C words more accurately than lists comprised of low-C words. These results demonstrate that network structure influences cognitive processes associated with several forms of memory including lexical, long-term, and short-term.
doi:10.1016/j.jml.2012.02.008
PMCID: PMC3381451  PMID: 22745522
network science; STM; LTM; clustering coefficient; mental lexicon
18.  Development of Phonological Constancy 
Psychological science  2009;20(5):539-542.
Efficient word recognition depends on detecting critical phonetic differences among similar-sounding words, or sensitivity to phonological distinctiveness, an ability evident at 19 months of age but unreliable at 14 to 15 months of age. However, little is known about phonological constancy, the equally crucial ability to recognize a word's identity across natural phonetic variations, such as those in cross-dialect pronunciation differences. We show that 15- and 19-month-old children recognize familiar words spoken in their native dialect, but that only the older children recognize familiar words in a dissimilar nonnative dialect, providing evidence for emergence of phonological constancy by 19 months. These results are compatible with a perceptual-attunement account of developmental change in early word recognition, but not with statistical-learning or phonological accounts. Thus, the complementary skills of phonological constancy and distinctiveness both appear at around 19 months of age, together providing the child with a fundamental insight that permits rapid vocabulary growth and later reading acquisition.
doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02327.x
PMCID: PMC2777974  PMID: 19368700
19.  Reduced Phonological Similarity Effects in Patients with Damage to the Cerebellum 
Brain and language  2005;95(2):304-318.
Ten cerebellar patients were compared to ten control subjects on a verbal working memory task in which the phonological similarity of the words to be remembered and their modality of presentation were manipulated. Cerebellar patients demonstrated a reduction of the phonological similarity effect relative to controls. Further, this reduction did not depend systematically upon the presentation modality. These results first document that qualitative differences in verbal working memory may be observed following cerebellar damage, indicating altered cognitive processing, even though behavioral output as measured by the digit span may be within normal limits. However, the results also present problems for the hypothesis that the cerebellar role is specifically associated with articulatory rehearsal as conceptualized in the Baddeley-Hitch model of working memory.
doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2005.02.001
PMCID: PMC2775087  PMID: 16246738
cerebellum; verbal working memory; speech perception; language; cognition; short-term memory; dysarthria; aphasia
20.  The Interaction of Concreteness and Phonological Similarity in Verbal Working Memory 
Although phonological representations have been a primary focus of verbal working memory research, lexical-semantic manipulations also influence performance. In the present study, the authors investigated whether a classic phenomenon in verbal working memory, the phonological similarity effect (PSE), is modulated by a lexical-semantic variable, word concreteness. Phonological overlap and concreteness were factorially manipulated in each of four experiments across which presentation modality (Experiments 1 and 2: visual presentation; Experiments 3 and 4: auditory presentation) and concurrent articulation (present in Experiments 2 and 4) were manipulated. In addition to main effects of each variable, results show a Phonological Overlap × Concreteness interaction whereby the magnitude of the PSE is greater for concrete word lists relative to abstract word lists. This effect is driven by superior item memory for nonoverlapping, concrete lists and is robust to the modality of presentation and concurrent articulation. These results demonstrate that in verbal working memory tasks, there are multiple routes to the phonological form of a word and that maintenance and retrieval occur over more than just a phonological level.
doi:10.1037/a0017679
PMCID: PMC3000525  PMID: 20053042
working memory; language production; serial recall; phonological similarity; concrete
21.  Rapid Extraction of Lexical Tone Phonology in Chinese Characters: A Visual Mismatch Negativity Study 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56778.
Background
In alphabetic languages, emerging evidence from behavioral and neuroimaging studies shows the rapid and automatic activation of phonological information in visual word recognition. In the mapping from orthography to phonology, unlike most alphabetic languages in which there is a natural correspondence between the visual and phonological forms, in logographic Chinese, the mapping between visual and phonological forms is rather arbitrary and depends on learning and experience. The issue of whether the phonological information is rapidly and automatically extracted in Chinese characters by the brain has not yet been thoroughly addressed.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We continuously presented Chinese characters differing in orthography and meaning to adult native Mandarin Chinese speakers to construct a constant varying visual stream. In the stream, most stimuli were homophones of Chinese characters: The phonological features embedded in these visual characters were the same, including consonants, vowels and the lexical tone. Occasionally, the rule of phonology was randomly violated by characters whose phonological features differed in the lexical tone.
Conclusions/Significance
We showed that the violation of the lexical tone phonology evoked an early, robust visual response, as revealed by whole-head electrical recordings of the visual mismatch negativity (vMMN), indicating the rapid extraction of phonological information embedded in Chinese characters. Source analysis revealed that the vMMN was involved in neural activations of the visual cortex, suggesting that the visual sensory memory is sensitive to phonological information embedded in visual words at an early processing stage.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056778
PMCID: PMC3577723  PMID: 23437235
22.  The role of consciousness in the phonological loop: hidden in plain sight 
We know from everyday experience that when we need to keep a small amount of verbal information “in mind” for a short period, an effective cognitive strategy is to silently rehearse the words. This basic cognitive strategy has been elegantly codified in Baddeley and colleagues model of verbal working memory, the phonological loop. Here we explore how the intuitive appeal of the phonological loop is grounded in the phenomenological experience of subvocal rehearsal as consisting of an interaction between an “inner voice” and an “inner ear.” We focus particularly on how our intuitions about the phenomenological experience of “inner speech” might constrain or otherwise inform the functional architecture of information processing models of verbal working memory such as the phonological loop; and how, indeed, how ideas about consciousness may offer alternative explanations for the dual nature of inner speech in verbal working memory.
doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00496
PMCID: PMC3737516  PMID: 23964252
working memory; phonological loop; inner ear; inner voice; consciousness
23.  The Effect of Concurrent Semantic Categorization on Delayed Serial Recall 
The influence of semantic processing on the serial ordering of items in short-term memory was explored using a novel dual-task paradigm. Subjects engaged in two picture judgment tasks while simultaneously performing delayed serial recall. List material varied in the presence of phonological overlap (Experiments 1 and 2) and in semantic content (concrete words in Experiment 1 and 3; nonwords in Experiments 2 and 3). Picture judgments varied in the extent to which they required accessing visual semantic information (i.e., semantic categorization and line orientation judgments). Results showed that, relative to line orientation judgments, engaging in semantic categorization judgments increased the proportion of item ordering errors for concrete lists but did not affect error proportions for nonword lists. Furthermore, although more ordering errors were observed for phonologically similar relative to dissimilar lists, no interactions were observed between the phonological overlap and picture judgment task manipulations. These results thus demonstrate that lexical-semantic representations can affect the serial ordering of items in short-term memory. Furthermore, the dual-task paradigm provides a new method for examining when and how semantic representations affect memory performance.
doi:10.1037/a0021205
PMCID: PMC3081404  PMID: 21058880
short-term memory; working memory; language production; serial recall; concreteness; speech error
24.  Influence of phonotactic probability/neighbourhood density on lexical learning in late talkers 
Background
Toddlers who are late talkers demonstrate delays in phonological and lexical skills. However, the influence of phonological factors on lexical acquisition in toddlers who are late talkers has not been examined directly.
Aims
To examine the influence of phonotactic probability/neighbourhood density on word learning in toddlers who were late talkers using comprehension, production and word recognition tasks.
Methods & Procedures
Two-year-olds who were late talkers (n = 12) and typically developing toddlers (n = 12) were exposed to 12 novel pseudo-words for unfamiliar objects in ten training sessions. Pseudo-words contained high or low phonotactic probability English sound sequences. The toddlers’ comprehension, speech production and detection of mispronunciation of the newly learned words were examined using a preferential looking paradigm.
Outcomes & Results
Late talkers showed poorer performance than toddlers with typical language development in all three tasks: comprehension, production and detection of mispronunciations. The toddlers with typical language development showed better speech production and more sensitivity to mispronunciations for high than low phonotactic probability/neighbourhood density sequences. Phonotactic probability/neighbourhood density did not influence the late talkers’ speech production or sensitivity to mispronunciations; they performed similarly for pseudo-words with high and low phonotactic probability/neighbourhood density sound sequences.
Conclusions & Implications
The results indicate that some late talkers do not recognize statistical properties of their language, which may contribute to their slower lexical learning.
doi:10.1111/j.1460-6984.2012.00198.x
PMCID: PMC3718547  PMID: 23472958
late talkers; phonology; lexicon; language delay
25.  Neural mechanisms underlying the facilitation of naming in aphasia using a semantic task: an fMRI study 
BMC Neuroscience  2012;13:98.
Background
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1471-2202-13-98
PMCID: PMC3477078  PMID: 22882806
Aphasia; Semantic verification; fMRI; Overt picture naming; Semantics

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