‘Number’ is the single most influential quantitative dimension in modern human society. It is our preferred dimension for keeping track of almost everything including distance, weight, time, temperature, and value. How did ‘number’ become psychologically affiliated with all of these different quantitative dimensions? Humans and other animals process a broad range of quantitative information across many psychophysical dimensions and sensory modalities. The fact that adults can rapidly translate one dimension (e.g., loudness) into any other (e.g., handgrip pressure) has been long established by psychophysics research (Stevens, 1975). Recent literature has attempted to account for the development of the computational and neural mechanisms that underlie interactions between quantitative dimensions. We review evidence that there are fundamental cognitive and neural relations among different quantitative dimensions (number, size, time, pitch, loudness, and brightness). Then, drawing on theoretical frameworks that explain phenomena from crossmodal perception, we outline some possible conceptualizations for how different quantitative dimensions could come to be related over both ontogenetic and phylogenetic timescales.
Patients with focal lesions to the left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG; BA 44/45) exhibit difficulty with language production and comprehension tasks, although the nature of their impairments has been somewhat difficult to characterize. No reported cases suggest that these patients are Broca's aphasics in the classic agrammatic sense. Recent case studies, however, do reveal a consistent pattern of deficit regarding their general cognitive processes: They are reliably impaired on tasks in which conflicting representations must be resolved by implementing top-down cognitive control (e.g., Stroop; memory tasks involving proactive interference). In the present study, we ask whether the language production and comprehension impairments displayed by a patient with circumscribed LIFG damage can best be understood within a general conflict resolution deficit account. We focus on one patient in particular—patient I.G.—and discuss the implications for language processing abilities as a consequence of a general cognitive control disorder. We compared I.G. and other frontal patients to age-matched control participants across four experiments. Experiment 1 tested participants’ general conflict resolution abilities within a modified working memory paradigm in an attempt to replicate prior case study findings. We then tested language production abilities on tasks of picture naming (Experiment 2) and verbal fluency (Experiment 3), tasks that generated conflict at the semantic and/or conceptual levels. Experiment 4 tested participants’ sentence processing and comprehension abilities using both online (eye movement) and offline measures. In this task, participants carried out spoken instructions containing a syntactic ambiguity, in which early interpretation commitments had to be overridden in order to recover an alternative, intended analysis of sentence meaning. Comparisons of I.G.'s performance with frontal and healthy control participants supported the following claim: I.G. suffers from a general conflict resolution impairment, which affects his ability to produce and comprehend language under specific conditions—namely, when semantic, conceptual, and/or syntactic representations compete and must be resolved.
Left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG); Broca's area; Conflict resolution and cognitive control; Language processing; Ambiguity resolution
In this study, we examined sentence production in a sample of adults (N = 21) who had Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as children, but as adults, no longer met DSM-IV diagnostic criteria (APA, 2000). This “remitted” group was assessed on a sentence production task. On each trial, participants saw two objects and a verb. Their task was to construct a sentence using the objects as arguments of the verb. Results showed more ungrammatical and disfluent utterances with one particular type of verb (i.e. participle). In a second set of analyses, we compared the remitted group to both control participants, and a “persistent” group, who had ADHD as children and as adults. Results showed that remitters were more likely to produce ungrammatical utterances and to make repair disfluencies compared to controls, and they patterned more similarly to ADHD participants. Conclusions focus on language output in remitted ADHD, and the role of executive functions in language production.
ADHD; language production; conceptual accessibility; grammatical encoding; partial remission; response inhibition
Many neuroimaging studies of semantic memory have argued that knowledge of an object’s perceptual properties are represented in a modality-specific manner. These studies often base their argument on finding activation in the left-hemisphere fusiform gyrus - a region assumed to be involved in perceptual processing - when the participant is verifying verbal statements about objects and properties. In this paper we report an extension of one of these influential papers—Kan, Barsalou, Solomon, Minor, and Thompson-Schill (2003)—and present evidence for an amodal component in the representation and processing of perceptual knowledge. Participants were required to verify object-property statements (e.g., “cat- whiskers?”; “bear-wings?”) while they were being scanned by fMRI. We replicated Kan et al’s activation in the left fusiform gyrus, but also found activation in regions of left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and middle-temporal gyrus, areas known to reflect amodal processes or representations. Further, only activations in the left IFG, an amodal area, were correlated with measures of behavioral performance.
Perceptual knowledge; representations; semantics; neuroimaging; modality-specificity
Models of working memory (WM) have been instrumental in understanding foundational cognitive processes and sources of individual differences. However, current models cannot conclusively explain the consistent group differences between deaf signers and hearing speakers on a number of short-term memory (STM) tasks. Here we take the perspective that these results are not due to a temporal order-processing deficit in deaf individuals, but rather reflect different biases in how different types of memory cues are used to do a given task. We further argue that the main driving force behind the shifts in relative biasing is a consequence of language modality (sign vs. speech) and the processing they afford, and not deafness, per se.
short-term memory; deafness; sign language; phonological coding; spatial-temporal coding
Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) is a non-invasive diffuse optical-imaging technique that can measure local metabolic demand in the surface of the cortex due to differential absorption of light by oxygenated and deoxygenated blood. Over the past decade, NIRS has become increasingly used as a complement to other neuroimaging techniques, such as EEG, MEG and fMRI, particularly in pediatric populations who cannot easily be tested using fMRI and MEG. In this review of empirical findings from human infants, ranging in age from birth to 12 months of age, a number of interpretive concerns are raised about what can be concluded from NIRS data. In addition, inconsistencies across studies are highlighted and strategies are proposed for enhancing the reliability of NIRS data gathered from infants. Finally, a variety of new and promising advances in NIRS techniques are highlighted.
Research on the brain basis of speech and language faces theoretical and empirical challenges. The majority of current research, dominated by imaging, deficit-lesion, and electrophysiological techniques, seeks to identify regions that underpin aspects of language processing such as phonology, syntax, or semantics. The emphasis lies on localization and spatial characterization of function. The first part of the paper deals with a practical challenge that arises in the context of such a research program. This maps problem concerns the extent to which spatial information and localization can satisfy the explanatory needs for perception and cognition. Several areas of investigation exemplify how the neural basis of speech and language is discussed in those terms (regions, streams, hemispheres, networks). The second part of the paper turns to a more troublesome challenge, namely how to formulate the formal links between neurobiology and cognition. This principled problem thus addresses the relation between the primitives of cognition (here speech, language) and neurobiology. Dealing with this mapping problem invites the development of linking hypotheses between the domains. The cognitive sciences provide granular, theoretically motivated claims about the structure of various domains (the ‘cognome’); neurobiology, similarly, provides a list of the available neural structures. However, explanatory connections will require crafting computationally explicit linking hypotheses at the right level of abstraction. For both the practical maps problem and the principled mapping problem, developmental approaches and evidence can play a central role in the resolution.
localization; computation; cognitive neuroscience; linking hypothesis
A primary goal of working memory research has been to understand the mechanisms that permit working memory systems to effectively maintain the identity and order of the elements held in memory for sufficient time as to allow for their selection and transfer to subsequent processing stages. Based on the performance of two individuals with acquired dysgraphia affecting orthographic WM (the graphemic buffer) we present evidence of two distinct and dissociable functions of orthographic WM. One function is responsible for maintaining the temporal stability of letters held in orthographic WM, while the other is responsible for maintaining their representational distinctiveness. The failure to maintain temporal stability and representational distinctiveness give rise, respectively, to decay and interference effects that manifest themselves in distinctive error patterns, including distinct serial position effects. The findings we report have implications beyond our understanding of orthographic WM, as the need to maintain temporal stability and representational distinctiveness in WM is common across cognitive domains.
working memory; spelling; dysgraphia; orthographic representations
Schwartz & Dell (2010) advocated for a major role for case series investigations in cognitive neuropsychology. They defined the key features of this approach and presented a number of arguments and examples illustrating the benefits of case series studies and their contribution to computational cognitive neuropsychology. In the Special Issue on “Case Series in Cognitive Neuropsychology” there are six commentaries on Schwartz and Dell (2010) as well as a response to the six commentaries by Dell and Schwartz. In this paper, I provide a brief summary of the key points made in Schwartz and Dell (2010) and I review the promise and perils of case series design as revealed by the six commentaries. I conclude by placing the set of papers within a broader perspective, providing some clarification of the historical record on case series and single case approaches, raising some cautionary notes for case series studies and situating both case series and single case approaches within the larger context of theory development in the cognitive sciences.
Many research questions in aphasia can only be answered through access to substantial numbers of patients and to their responses on individual test items. Since such data are often unavailable to individual researchers and institutions, we have developed and made available the Moss Aphasia Psycholinguistics Project Database: a large, searchable, web-based database of patient performance on psycholinguistic and neuropsychological tests. The database contains data from over 170 patients covering a wide range of aphasia subtypes and severity, some of whom were tested multiple times. The core of the archive consists of a detailed record of individual-trial performance on the Philadelphia (picture) Naming Test. The database also contains basic demographic information about the patients and patients' overall performance on neuropsychological assessments as well as tests of speech perception, semantics, short-term memory, and sentence comprehension. The database is available at http://www.mappd.org/.
aphasia; database; picture naming; language
Case series methodology involves the systematic assessment of a sample of related patients, with the goal of understanding how and why they differ from one another. This method has become increasingly important in cognitive neuropsychology, which has long been identified with single-subject research. We review case series studies dealing with impaired semantic memory, reading, and language production, and draw attention to the affinity of this methodology for testing theories that are expressed as computational models and for addressing questions about neuroanatomy. It is concluded that case series methods usefully complement single-subject techniques.
case series; single-subject; cognitive neuropsychology; computational models; lexical access; semantic dementia; aphasia; semantic memory
Mental representation of numbers is believed to be spatial in nature, with small numbers occupying the left and large numbers the right side of a putative mental number line. Consistent with this, presentation of numbers from the low and high ends of the mental number line induces covert shifts of spatial attention to the left and right side of visual space, respectively. However, the effect of the presentation of the middle range (containing numbers below and above the midpoint) of the number line on visual perception has so far not been studied. Here we show in two experiments, using a line bisection task and a simple target detection task, that processing of middle-range numbers affects allocation of visuospatial attention in a similar way as processing of small numbers, with attention shifted to the left side of space. We suggest that this pattern of results arises due to “anchoring” heuristics that participants use in number processing.
Line bisection; Target detection; Spatial priming; Mental number line; Number processing; Visual attention
A central question for theories of inflected word processing is to determine under what circumstances compositional procedures apply. Some accounts (e.g., the Dual Mechanism Model; Clahsen, 1999) propose that compositional processes only apply to verbs that take productive affixes. For all other verbs, inflected forms are assumed to be stored in the lexicon in a non-decomposed manner. This account makes clear predictions about the consequences of disruption to the lexical access mechanisms involved in the spoken production of inflected forms. Briefly, it predicts that non-productive forms (which require lexical access) should be more affected than productive forms (which, depending on the language task, may not). We tested these predictions through the detailed analysis of the spoken production of a German-speaking individual with an acquired lexical impairment resulting from a stroke. Analyses of response accuracy, error types, and frequency effects revealed that combinatorial processes are not restricted to verbs that take productive inflections. On this basis, we propose an alternative account, the Stem-based Assembly Model (SAM) that posits that combinatorial processes may be available to all stems, and not only those that combine with productive affixes.
Morphology; inflections; productivity; affixation; speech production; neuropsychology
Sternberg (2011) elegantly formalizes how certain sets of hypotheses, specifically modularity and pure or composite measures, imply certain patterns of behavioural and neuroimaging data. Experimentalists are often interested in the converse, however: whether certain patterns of data distinguish certain hypotheses, specifically whether more than one module is involved. In this case, there is a striking reversal of the relative value of the data patterns that Sternberg considers. Foremost, the example of additive effects of two factors on one composite measure becomes noninformative for this converse question. Indeed, as soon as one allows for nonlinear measurement functions and nonlinear module processes, even a cross-over interaction between two factors is noninformative in this respect. Rather, one requires more than one measure, from which certain data patterns do provide strong evidence for multiple modules, assuming only that the measurement functions are monotonic. If two measures are not monotonically related to each other across the levels of one or more experimental factors, then one has evidence for more than one module (i.e., more than one nonmonotonic transform). Two special cases of this are illustrated here: a “reversed association” between two measures across three levels of a single factor, and Sternberg's example of selective effects of two factors on two measures. Fortunately, functional neuroimaging methods normally do provide multiple measures over space (e.g., functional magnetic resonance imaging, fMRI) and/or time (e.g., electroencephalography, EEG). Thus to the extent that brain modules imply mind modules (i.e., separate processors imply separate processes), the performance data offered by functional neuroimaging are likely to be more powerful in revealing modules than are the single behavioural measures (such as accuracy or reaction time, RT) traditionally considered in psychology.
Cognitive neuroscience; Cognitive psychology; functional magnetic resonance imaging; Electroencephalography; Dissociations
Research in the cognitive and neural sciences has long posited a distinction between the long-term memory (LTM) storage of information and the short-term buffering of information that is being actively manipulated in working memory (WM). This basic type of distinction has been posited in a variety of domains, including written language production—spelling. In the domain of spelling, the primary source of empirical evidence regarding this distinction has been cognitive neuropsychological studies reporting deficits selectively affecting what the cognitive neuropsychological literature has referred to as the orthographic lexicon (LTM) or the graphemic buffer (WM). Recent papers have reexamined several of the hallmark characteristics of impairment affecting the graphemic buffer, with implications for our understanding of the nature of the orthographic LTM and WM systems. In this paper, we present a detailed case series study of 4 individuals with acquired spelling deficits and report evidence from both error types and factors influencing error rates that support the traditional distinction between these cognitive systems involved in spelling. In addition, we report evidence indicating possible interaction between these systems, which is consistent with a variety of recent findings in research on spelling.
Orthography; Spelling; Long-term memory; Working memory
We investigated the influence of phonological neighborhood density (PND) on the performance of aphasic speakers whose naming impairments differentially implicate phonological or semantic stages of lexical access. A word comes from a dense phonological neighborhood if many words sound like it. Limited evidence suggests that higher density facilitates naming in aphasic speakers, as it does in healthy speakers. Using well controlled stimuli, Experiment 1 confirmed the influence of PND on accuracy and phonological error rates in two aphasic speakers with phonological processing deficits. In Experiments 2 and 3, we extended the investigation to an aphasic speaker who is prone to semantic errors, indicating a semantic deficit and/or a deficit in the mapping from semantics to words. This individual had higher accuracy, and fewer semantic errors, in naming targets from high versus low density neighborhoods. It is argued that the results provide strong support for interactive approaches to lexical access, where reverberatory feedback between word- and phoneme-level lexical representations not only facilitates phonological level processes but also privileges the selection of a target word over its semantic competitors.
phonology; neighborhood density; aphasia; interactivity; lexical access
Recent neuroimaging and neuropsychological findings indicate that the posterior parietal cortex (PPC) plays an important, albeit undefined, role in episodic memory. Here we ask whether this region is specifically involved in associative aspects of episodic memory. Experiment 1 tested whether PPC damage affects the ability to learn and retrieve novel word-pair associations. Experiment 2 tested whether PPC damage affects the retrieval of object-location associations, in a spatial fan task. In both experiments, patients showed normal levels of associative memory. These findings demonstrated that PPC damage did not prevent association memory for verbal items. Finally Experiment 3 tested whether PPC damage affects memory for non-verbal audio-visual pairs. The patients performed with normal accuracy, but with significantly reduced confidence. These findings indicate that the PPC does not have a central role in association formation per se and instead, indicate that the PPC is involved in other aspects of episodic memory.
associational memory; relational memory; neuropsychology; Balint’s patient; confidence ratings
Responses of forty-two people with aphasia to eleven sentence types in enactment and sentence-picture matching tasks were characterized using Rasch models that varied in the inclusion of the factors of task, sentence type, and patient group. The best fitting models required the factors of task and patient group but not sentence type. The results provide evidence that aphasic syntactic comprehension is best accounted for by models that include different estimates of patient ability in different tasks and different difficulty of all sentences in different groups of patients, but that do not include different estimates of patient ability for different types of sentences.
Neuropsychological conditions such as Balint’s syndrome have shown that perceptual organization of parts into a perceptual unit can be dissociated from the ability to localize objects relative to each other. Neural mechanisms that code the spatial structure within individual objects or words may seem to be intact, while between-object structure is compromised. Here we investigate the nature of within-object spatial processing in a patient with Balint’s syndrome (RM). We suggest that within-object spatial structure can be determined (a) directly by explicit spatial processing of between-part relations, mediated by the same dorsal pathway as between-object spatial relations; or (b) indirectly by the discrimination of object identities, which may involve implicit processing of between-part relations and which is probably mediated by the ventral system. When this route is ruled out, by testing discrimination of differences in part location that do not change the identity of the object, we find no evidence of explicit within-object spatial coding in a patient without functioning parietal lobes.
Impairments of the lexical and the nonlexical reading route were examined for German-speaking dyslexic readers by measuring accuracy and speed of phonological and orthographic lexical decisions. Different from English-based findings, we found little difficulty with the phonological distinction between pseudohomophones and nonwords, but a major difficulty with the orthographic distinction between words and pseudohomophones. Subtyping identified pure surface dyslexia cases but no case of pure phonological dyslexia. Dyslexic speed impairments were traced to three loci in the dual-route model: an impoverished orthographic lexicon, slow access from orthographic to phonological lexicon entries (lexical route) and from graphemes to phonemes (nonlexical route). A review of distal cognitive deficits suggested that the orthographic lexicon is affected by phonological deficits and that the slow functioning of the lexical and the nonlexical route reflects a general visual-verbal speed impairment and not a purely visual-attentional deficit.
dyslexia; phonological lexical decision; orthographic lexical decision; reading speed impairment; dual-route model
Some theories of lexical access in production locate the effect of lexical frequency at the retrieval of a word’s phonological characteristics, as opposed to the prior retrieval of a holistic representation of the word from its meaning. Yet there is evidence from both normal and aphasic individuals that frequency may influence both of these retrieval processes. This inconsistency is especially relevant in light of recent attempts to determine the representation of another lexical property, age of acquisition or AoA, whose effect is similar to that of frequency. To further explore the representations of these lexical variables in the word retrieval system, we performed hierarchical, multinomial logistic regression analyses of 50 aphasic patients’ picture-naming responses. While both log frequency and AoA had a significant influence on patient accuracy and led to fewer phonologically related errors and omissions, only log frequency had an effect on semantically related errors. These results provide evidence for a lexical access process sensitive to frequency at all stages, but with AoA having a more limited effect.
Two studies investigated whether patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) suffer high-level and category-specific impairment in the conceptual domain of living things. In Study 1, AD patients and healthy young and healthy elderly controls took part in three tasks: the Conservation of Species, Volume, and Belief. All 3 tasks required tracking an object’s identity in the face of irrelevant but salient transformations. Healthy young and elderly controls performed at or near ceiling on all tasks. AD patients were at or near ceiling on the Volume and Belief tasks, but only about half succeeded on the Species task. Study 2 demonstrated that the results were not due to simple task demands. AD patients’ failure to conserve species indicates that they are impaired in their theoretical understanding of living things, and their success on the Volume and Belief tasks suggests that the impairment is domain-specific. Two hypotheses are put forward to explain the phenomenon: the first, a category-specific account, holds that the intuitive theory of biology undergoes pervasive degradation; the second, a hybrid domain-general/domain-specific account, holds that impairment to domain-general processes such as executive function interacts with core cognition, the primitive elements that are the foundation of domain-specific knowledge.
Alzheimer’s disease; aging; cognitive development; intuitive biology; domain specificity; conceptual impairment; Piagetian conservation
Patients with semantic dementia (SD) have a striking impairment in semantic memory, but the basis for this deficit is unclear. We examined semantic memory for concrete and abstract verbs with a two-alternative, forced-choice measure of lexical semantic associative knowledge. Patients with SD had significantly greater difficulty with concrete verbs (z = −3.33) than abstract verbs (z = −2.05), a “reversal of the concreteness effect” that was present in a majority of individual patients. The subgroup of SD patients with imaging had significant cortical thinning in the anterior and inferolateral portions of the temporal lobes. These areas of visual association cortex may be important for storing and processing visual features for word meaning. Moreover, poor performance with concrete relative to abstract verbs correlated with cortical thinning of the right anterior temporal lobe in SD, suggesting that this region may contribute to storing and processing visual semantic features. These observations raise the possibility that degraded visual feature knowledge contributes in part to the impaired comprehension of concrete words in SD.
semantic; semantic dementia; verb