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    ABSTRACT: Within the last decade, the neurobiology of action processing has moved from an obscure topic of specialist interest to one of the most popular themes in modern neuroscience. However, the wealth of literature and the diversity of approaches and theoretical models can make the field complex and, at times, bewildering. This review presents the main currents of research, examining their theoretical underpinnings in an interdisciplinary context. The presence of specific deficits in verb and action processing has been documented in a wide range of neurodegenerative diseases, including parkinsonian syndromes and motor neuron disease. Interestingly, most of these disorders affect the motor system, suggesting a systematic relationship between motor functions and their cognitive and linguistic representations. Action processing has been explored with a whole spectrum of methodologies, from neuroimaging to transcranial and intracranial stimulation. The findings have been integrated with other influential concepts and theories, including mirror neurons and embodied cognition. Converging evidence from patient and imaging studies links the concepts of actions and their processing with the execution of actions through the motor system. The theory of embodied cognition remains influential as well as controversial. However, the points of criticism have changed, reflecting recent paradigm shifts.
    Current opinion in neurology 10/2013; DOI:10.1097/WCO.0000000000000039
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    ABSTRACT: Young children's speech is typically more linguistically sophisticated than their writing. However, there are grounds for asking whether production of cohesive devices, such as verb-phrase anaphora (VPA), might represent an exception to this developmental pattern, as cohesive devices are generally more important in writing than in speech and so might be expected to be more frequent in children's writing than in their speech. The study reported herein aims to compare the frequency of children's production of VPA constructions (e.g., Mary is eating an apple and so is John) between a written and a spoken task. Forty-eight children participated from each of two age groups: 7-year-olds and 10-year-olds. All the children received both a spoken and a written sentence completion task designed to elicit production of VPA. Task order was counterbalanced. VPA production was significantly more frequent in speech than in writing and when the spoken task was presented first. Surprisingly, the 7-year-olds produced VPA constructions more frequently than the 10-year-olds. Despite the greater importance of cohesion in writing than in speech, children's production of VPA is similar to their production of most other aspects of language in that more sophisticated constructions are used more frequently in speech than in writing. Children's written production of cohesive devices could probably be enhanced by presenting spoken tasks immediately before written tasks. The lower frequency of VPA production in the older children may reflect syntactic priming effects or a belief that they should produce sentences that are as fully specified as possible.
    British Journal of Educational Psychology 09/2013; 83(3):521-534. DOI:10.1111/j.2044-8279.2012.02078.x
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    ABSTRACT: The target article sketched and explored a mechanism (action-oriented predictive processing) most plausibly associated with core forms of cortical processing. In assessing the attractions and pitfalls of the proposal we should keep that element distinct from larger, though interlocking, issues concerning the nature of adaptive organization in general.
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences 06/2013; 36(3):233-53. DOI:10.1017/S0140525X12002440
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    ABSTRACT: Brains, it has recently been argued, are essentially prediction machines. They are bundles of cells that support perception and action by constantly attempting to match incoming sensory inputs with top-down expectations or predictions. This is achieved using a hierarchical generative model that aims to minimize prediction error within a bidirectional cascade of cortical processing. Such accounts offer a unifying model of perception and action, illuminate the functional role of attention, and may neatly capture the special contribution of cortical processing to adaptive success. This target article critically examines this "hierarchical prediction machine" approach, concluding that it offers the best clue yet to the shape of a unified science of mind and action. Sections 1 and 2 lay out the key elements and implications of the approach. Section 3 explores a variety of pitfalls and challenges, spanning the evidential, the methodological, and the more properly conceptual. The paper ends (sections 4 and 5) by asking how such approaches might impact our more general vision of mind, experience, and agency.
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences 05/2013; 36(3):1-24. DOI:10.1017/S0140525X12000477
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    ABSTRACT: This paper reviews Bloodstein's (1975) Anticipatory Struggle Hypothesis of stuttering, identifies its weaknesses, and proposes modifications to bring it into line with recent advances in psycholinguistic theory. The review concludes that the Anticipatory Struggle Hypothesis provides a plausible explanation for the variation in the severity of stuttered disfluencies across speaking situations and conversation partners. However, it fails to explain the forms that stuttered disfluencies characteristically take or the subjective experience of loss of control that accompanies them. The paper then describes how the forms and subjective experiences of persistent stuttering can be accounted for by a threshold-based regulatory mechanism of the kind described in Howell's (2003) revision of the EXPLAN hypothesis. It then proposes that shortcomings of both the Anticipatory Struggle and EXPLAN hypotheses can be addressed by combining them together to create a 'Variable Release Threshold' hypothesis whereby the anticipation of upcoming difficulty leads to the setting of an excessively high threshold for the release of speech plans for motor execution. The paper also reconsiders the possibility that two stuttering subtypes exist: one related to formulation difficulty and other to difficulty initiating motor execution. It concludes that research findings that relate to the one may not necessarily apply to the other. Learning outcomes: After reading this article, the reader will be able to: (1) summarize the key strengths and weaknesses of Bloodstein's Anticipatory Struggle Hypothesis; (2) describe two hypothesized mechanisms behind the production of stuttered disfluencies (tension and fragmentation & release threshold mechanisms); and (3) discuss why the notion of anticipation is relevant to current hypotheses of stuttering.
    Journal of Communication Disorders 04/2013; DOI:10.1016/j.jcomdis.2013.04.002
  • 01/2013; 14(1):1-2. DOI:10.3109/21678421.2013.760150
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    ABSTRACT: We present a novel lexical decision task and three boundary paradigm eye-tracking experiments that clarify the picture of parallel processing in word recognition in context. First, we show that lexical decision is facilitated by associated letter information to the left and right of the word, with no apparent hemispheric specificity. Second, we show that parafoveal preview of a repeat of word n at word n + 1 facilitates reading of word n relative to a control condition with an unrelated word at word n + 1. Third, using a version of the boundary paradigm that allowed for a regressive eye movement, we show no parafoveal "postview" effect on reading word n of repeating word n at word n - 1. Fourth, we repeat the second experiment but compare the effects of parafoveal previews consisting of a repeated word n with a transposed central bigram (e.g., caot for coat) and a substituted central bigram (e.g., ceit for coat), showing the latter to have a deleterious effect on processing word n, thereby demonstrating that the parafoveal preview effect is at least orthographic and not purely visual.
    Quarterly journal of experimental psychology (2006) 09/2012; DOI:10.1080/17470218.2012.703212
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    ABSTRACT: Frost's claim that universal models of reading require linguistically diverse data is relevant and justified. We support it with evidence demonstrating the extent of the bias towards some Indo-European languages and alphabetic scripts in scientific literature. However, some of his examples are incorrect, and he neglects the complex interaction of writing system and language structure with history and cultural environment.
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences 08/2012; 35(5):280-1. DOI:10.1017/S0140525X12000143
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    ABSTRACT: Current research in cerebellar cognitive and linguistic functions makes plausible the idea that the cerebellum is involved in processing temporally contiguous linguistic input. In order to assess this hypothesis, a lexical decision task was constructed to study the effects of cerebellar transcranial magnetic stimulation on semantic noun-to-verb priming based on association (e.g. 'soap-cleaning') or similarity (e.g. 'robbery-stealing'). The results demonstrated a selective increase in associative priming size after stimulation of a lateral cerebellar site. The findings are discussed in the contexts of a cerebellar role in linguistic expectancy generation and the corticocerebellar 'prefrontal' reciprocal loop.
    The Cerebellum 07/2012; 12(1). DOI:10.1007/s12311-012-0398-y
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    ABSTRACT: Embodied cognitive science has argued that cognition is embodied principally in virtue of gross morphological and sensorimotor features. This thesis argues that cognition is also internally embodied in affective and fine-grained physiological features whose transformative roles remain mostly unnoticed in contemporary cognitive science. I call this ‘proper embodiment’. I approach this larger subject by examining various emotion theories in philosophy and psychology. These tend to emphasise one of the many gross components of emotional processes, such as ‘feeling’ or ‘judgement’ to the detriment of the others, often leading to an artificial emotion-cognition distinction even within emotion science itself. Attempts to reconcile this by putting the gross components back together, such as Jesse Prinz’s “embodied appraisal theory”, are, I argue, destined to failure because the vernacular concept of emotion which is used as the explanandum is not a natural kind and is not amenable to scientific explication. I examine Antonio Damasio’s proposal that emotion is involved in paradigmatic ‘cognitive’ processing such as rational decision making, and argue (1) that the research he discusses does not warrant the particular hypothesis he favours, and (2) that Damasio’s account, though in many ways a step in the right direction, nonetheless continues to endorse a framework which sees affect and cognition as separate (though now highly interacting) faculties. I further argue that the conflation of ‘affect’ and ‘emotion’ may be the source of some confusion in emotion theory and that affect needs to be properly distinguished from ‘emotion’. I examine some dissociations in the pain literature which give us further empirical evidence that, as with the emotions, affect is a distinct component along with more cognitive elements of pain. I then argue that affect is distinctive in being grounded in homeostatic regulative activity in the body proper. With the distinction between affect, emotion, and cognition in hand, and the associated grounding of affect in bodily activity, I then survey evidence that bodily affect is also involved in perception and in paradigmatic cognitive processes such as attention and executive function. I argue that this relation is not ‘merely’ casual. Instead, affect (grounded in fine-grained details of internal bodily activity) is partially constitutive of cognition, participating in cognitive processing and contributing to perceptual and cognitive phenomenology. Finally I review some work in evolutionary robotics which reaches a similar conclusion, suggesting that the particular fine details of embodiment, such as molecular signalling between both neural and somatic cells matters to cognition. I conclude that cognition is ‘properly embodied’ in that it is partially constituted by the many fine-grained bodily processes involved in affect (as demonstrated in the thesis) and plausibly by a wide variety of other fine-grained bodily processes that likewise tend to escape the net of contemporary cognitive science.
    School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, The University of Edinburgh, 06/2012, Degree: PhD, Supervisor: Andy Clark
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