Joseph T Devlin

University College London, Londinium, England, United Kingdom

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Publications (69)473.67 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a safe, non-invasive brain stimulation technique that uses a strong electromagnet in order to temporarily disrupt information processing in a brain region, generating a short-lived "virtual lesion." Stimulation that interferes with task performance indicates that the affected brain region is necessary to perform the task normally. In other words, unlike neuroimaging methods such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) that indicate correlations between brain and behavior, TMS can be used to demonstrate causal brain-behavior relations. Furthermore, by varying the duration and onset of the virtual lesion, TMS can also reveal the time course of normal processing. As a result, TMS has become an important tool in cognitive neuroscience. Advantages of the technique over lesion-deficit studies include better spatial-temporal precision of the disruption effect, the ability to use participants as their own control subjects, and the accessibility of participants. Limitations include concurrent auditory and somatosensory stimulation that may influence task performance, limited access to structures more than a few centimeters from the surface of the scalp, and the relatively large space of free parameters that need to be optimized in order for the experiment to work. Experimental designs that give careful consideration to appropriate control conditions help to address these concerns. This article illustrates these issues with TMS results that investigate the spatial and temporal contributions of the left supramarginal gyrus (SMG) to reading.
    Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE. 01/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Semantic ambiguity resolution is an essential and frequent part of speech comprehension because many words map onto multiple meanings (e.g., "bark," "bank"). Neuroimaging research highlights the importance of the left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG) and the left posterior temporal cortex in this process but the roles they serve in ambiguity resolution are uncertain. One possibility is that both regions are engaged in the processes of semantic reinterpretation that follows incorrect interpretation of an ambiguous word. Here we used fMRI to investigate this hypothesis. 20 native British English monolinguals were scanned whilst listening to sentences that contained an ambiguous word. To induce semantic reinterpretation, the disambiguating information was presented after the ambiguous word and delayed until the end of the sentence (e.g., "the teacher explained that the BARK was going to be very damp"). These sentences were compared to well-matched unambiguous sentences. Supporting the reinterpretation hypothesis, these ambiguous sentences produced more activation in both the LIFG and the left posterior inferior temporal cortex. Importantly, all but one subject showed ambiguity-related peaks within both regions, demonstrating that the group-level results were driven by high inter-subject consistency. Further support came from the finding that activation in both regions was modulated by meaning dominance. Specifically, sentences containing biased ambiguous words, which have one more dominant meaning, produced greater activation than those with balanced ambiguous words, which have two equally frequent meanings. Because the context always supported the less frequent meaning, the biased words require reinterpretation more often than balanced words. This is the first evidence of dominance effects in the spoken modality and provides strong support that frontal and temporal regions support the updating of semantic representations during speech comprehension.
    Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 01/2014; 8:530. · 2.91 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: It is generally assumed that abstract concepts are linguistically coded, in line with imaging evidence of greater engagement of the left perisylvian language network for abstract than concrete words (Binder JR, Desai RH, Graves WW, Conant LL. 2009. Where is the semantic system? A critical review and meta-analysis of 120 functional neuroimaging studies. Cerebral Cortex. 19:2767-2796; Wang J, Conder JA, Blitzer DN, Shinkareva SV. 2010. Neural representation of abstract and concrete concepts: A meta-analysis of neuroimaging studies. Hum Brain Map. 31:1459-1468). Recent behavioral work, which used tighter matching of items than previous studies, however, suggests that abstract concepts also entail affective processing to a greater extent than concrete concepts (Kousta S-T, Vigliocco G, Vinson DP, Andrews M, Del Campo E. The representation of abstract words: Why emotion matters. J Exp Psychol Gen. 140:14-34). Here we report a functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment that shows greater engagement of the rostral anterior cingulate cortex, an area associated with emotion processing (e.g., Etkin A, Egner T, Peraza DM, Kandel ER, Hirsch J. 2006. Resolving emotional conflict: A role for the rostral anterior cingulate cortex in modulating activity in the amygdala. Neuron. 52:871), in abstract processing. For abstract words, activation in this area was modulated by the hedonic valence (degree of positive or negative affective association) of our items. A correlation analysis of more than 1,400 English words further showed that abstract words, in general, receive higher ratings for affective associations (both valence and arousal) than concrete words, supporting the view that engagement of emotional processing is generally required for processing abstract words. We argue that these results support embodiment views of semantic representation, according to which, whereas concrete concepts are grounded in our sensory-motor experience, affective experience is crucial in the grounding of abstract concepts.
    Cerebral Cortex 02/2013; · 8.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Unlike most languages that are written using a single script, Japanese uses multiple scripts including morphographic Kanji and syllabographic Hiragana and Katakana. Here, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging with dynamic causal modeling to investigate competing theories regarding the neural processing of Kanji and Hiragana during a visual lexical decision task. First, a bilateral model investigated interhemispheric connectivity between ventral occipito-temporal (vOT) cortex and Broca's area ("pars opercularis"). We found that Kanji significantly increased the connection strength from right-to-left vOT. This is interpreted in terms of increased right vOT activity for visually complex Kanji being integrated into the left (i.e. language dominant) hemisphere. Secondly, we used a unilateral left hemisphere model to test whether Kanji and Hiragana rely preferentially on ventral and dorsal paths, respectively, that is, they have different intrahemispheric functional connectivity profiles. Consistent with this hypothesis, we found that Kanji increased connectivity within the ventral path (V1 ↔ vOT ↔ Broca's area), and that Hiragana increased connectivity within the dorsal path (V1 ↔ supramarginal gyrus ↔ Broca's area). Overall, the results illustrate how the differential processing demands of Kanji and Hiragana influence both inter- and intrahemispheric interactions.
    Cerebral Cortex 02/2013; · 8.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In Japanese, the same word can be written in either morphographic Kanji or syllabographic Hiragana and this provides a unique opportunity to disentangle a word's lexical frequency from the frequency of its visual form - an important distinction for understanding the neural information processing in regions engaged by reading. Behaviorally, participants responded more quickly to high than low frequency words and to visually familiar relative to less familiar words, independent of script. Critically, the imaging results showed that visual familiarity, as opposed to lexical frequency, had a strong effect on activation in ventral occipito-temporal cortex. Activation here was also greater for Kanji than Hiragana words and this was not due to their inherent differences in visual complexity. These findings can be understood within a predictive coding framework in which vOT receives bottom-up information encoding complex visual forms and top-down predictions from regions encoding non-visual attributes of the stimulus.
    Brain and Language 03/2012; · 3.39 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Although there is strong evidence that Broca's area is important for syntax, this may simply be a by-product of greater working memory and/or cognitive control demands for more complex syntactic structures. Here we report an experiment with event-related transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to investigate whether Broca's area plays a causal role in morphosyntactic processing when both working memory and cognitive control demands are low. Participants were presented with word pairs that could either agree or disagree in grammatical number or gender while receiving stimulation to Broca's area or to the right intraparietal sulcus (a control site). Stimulation of Broca's area significantly reduced the advantage for grammatical relative to ungrammatical word pairs. In contrast, stimulation of control site left this grammaticality advantage unchanged. The interaction between grammaticality and stimulation was specific to Broca's area, suggesting a clear involvement of the region in morphosyntactic processing.
    Neuropsychologia 01/2012; 50(5):816-20. · 3.48 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Reading is a difficult task that, at a minimum, requires recognizing a visual stimulus and linking it with its corresponding sound and meaning. Neurologically, this involves an anatomically distributed set of brain regions cooperating to solve the problem. It has been hypothesized that the supramarginal gyrus (SMG) contributes preferentially to phonological aspects of word processing and thus plays an important role in visual word recognition. Here, we used chronometric transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to investigate the functional specificity and timing of SMG involvement in reading visually presented words. Participants performed tasks designed to focus on either the phonological, semantic, or visual aspects of written words while double pulses of TMS (delivered 40 ms apart) were used to temporarily interfere with neural information processing in the left SMG at five different time windows. Stimulation at 80/120, 120/160, and 160/200 ms post-stimulus onset significantly slowed subjects' reaction times in the phonological task. This inhibitory effect was specific to the phonological condition, with no effect of TMS in the semantic or visual tasks, consistent with claims that SMG contributes preferentially to phonological aspects of word processing. The fact that the effect began within 80-120 ms of the onset of the stimulus and continued for approximately 100 ms, indicates that phonological processing initiates early and is sustained over time. These findings are consistent with accounts of visual word recognition that posit parallel activation of orthographic, phonological, and semantic information that interact over time to settle into a distributed, but stable, representation of a word.
    Frontiers in Psychology 01/2012; 3:161. · 2.80 Impact Factor
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    Cathy J Price, Joseph T Devlin
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    ABSTRACT: The ventral occipitotemporal cortex (vOT) is involved in the perception of visually presented objects and written words. The Interactive Account of vOT function is based on the premise that perception involves the synthesis of bottom-up sensory input with top-down predictions that are generated automatically from prior experience. We propose that vOT integrates visuospatial features abstracted from sensory inputs with higher level associations such as speech sounds, actions and meanings. In this context, specialization for orthography emerges from regional interactions without assuming that vOT is selectively tuned to orthographic features. We discuss how the Interactive Account explains left vOT responses during normal reading and developmental dyslexia; and how it accounts for the behavioural consequences of left vOT damage.
    Trends in Cognitive Sciences 06/2011; 15(6):246-53. · 16.01 Impact Factor
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    Keith J Kawabata Duncan, Joseph T Devlin
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    ABSTRACT: A critical assumption underlying the practice of functional localization is that the voxels identified by functional localization are essentially the same as those activated in the main experiment for a particular anatomical area. Violations of this assumption bias the resulting analyses and can dramatically increase the likelihood of both Type I and Type II errors. Here we investigated how the amount of data affects the reliability of a set of common functionally-defined regions-of-interest (fROIs). Four participants were scanned ten times each to functionally localize extrastriate regions sensitive to visually presented words, objects and faces. A within-subject random-effects analysis was used as the "gold standard" for identifying the fROIs and the results were compared to within-subject, fixed-effect analyses typically used for functional localization. By varying the quantity of data included in the analyses, we empirically assessed the amount needed to ensure reliable identification of the fROIs. The results demonstrated that the most consistent fROIs were based on either stringent statistical thresholding (Z>5.0) of large quantities of data or on lenient thresholding (Z>2.3) of a modest amount of data, with both methods yielding 70-80% overlap between the functional localization results and the "gold standard." Stringent statistical thresholds on typical quantities of localizer data led to the poorest reliability (<20% overlap). These findings suggest that the most reliable and cost-efficient method for functional localization involves collecting a relatively small amount of data (~10 min) and using a lenient statistical threshold to identify all voxels in a given region that are sensitive to the process-of-interest.
    NeuroImage 05/2011; 57(3):1022-30. · 6.25 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Although interactivity is considered a fundamental principle of cognitive (and computational) models of reading, it has received far less attention in neural models of reading that instead focus on serial stages of feed-forward processing from visual input to orthographic processing to accessing the corresponding phonological and semantic information. In particular, the left ventral occipito-temporal (vOT) cortex is proposed to be the first stage where visual word recognition occurs prior to accessing nonvisual information such as semantics and phonology. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate whether there is evidence that activation in vOT is influenced top-down by the interaction of visual and nonvisual properties of the stimuli during visual word recognition tasks. Participants performed two different types of lexical decision tasks that focused on either visual or nonvisual properties of the word or word-like stimuli. The design allowed us to investigate how vOT activation during visual word recognition was influenced by a task change to the same stimuli and by a stimulus change during the same task. We found both stimulus- and task-driven modulation of vOT activation that can only be explained by top-down processing of nonvisual aspects of the task and stimuli. Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that vOT acts as an interface linking visual form with nonvisual processing in both bottom up and top down directions. Such interactive processing at the neural level is in agreement with cognitive and computational models of reading but challenges some of the assumptions made by current neuro-anatomical models of reading.
    NeuroImage 01/2011; 55(3):1242-51. · 6.25 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Behavioral studies have demonstrated that learning to read and write affects the processing of spoken language. The present study investigates the neural mechanism underlying the emergence of such orthographic effects during speech processing. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was used to tease apart two competing hypotheses that consider this orthographic influence to be either a consequence of a change in the nature of the phonological representations during literacy acquisition or a consequence of online coactivation of the orthographic and phonological representations during speech processing. Participants performed an auditory lexical decision task in which the orthographic consistency of spoken words was manipulated and repetitive TMS was used to interfere with either phonological or orthographic processing by stimulating left supramarginal gyrus (SMG) or left ventral occipitotemporal cortex (vOTC), respectively. The advantage for consistently spelled words was removed only when the stimulation was delivered to SMG and not to vOTC, providing strong evidence that this effect arises at a phonological, rather than an orthographic, level. We propose a possible mechanistic explanation for the role of SMG in phonological processing and how this is affected by learning to read.
    Journal of Neuroscience 06/2010; 30(25):8435-44. · 6.91 Impact Factor
  • Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 01/2010; · 4.49 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Language is a uniquely human ability that evolved at some point in the roughly 6,000,000 years since human and chimpanzee lines diverged. Even in the most linguistically impoverished environments, children naturally develop sophisticated language systems. In contrast, reading is a learnt skill that does not develop without intensive tuition and practice. Learning to read is likely to involve ontogenic structural brain changes, but these are nearly impossible to isolate in children owing to concurrent biological, environmental and social maturational changes. In Colombia, guerrillas are re-integrating into mainstream society and learning to read for the first time as adults. This presents a unique opportunity to investigate how literacy changes the brain, without the maturational complications present in children. Here we compare structural brain scans from those who learnt to read as adults (late-literates) with those from a carefully matched set of illiterates. Late-literates had more white matter in the splenium of the corpus callosum and more grey matter in bilateral angular, dorsal occipital, middle temporal, left supramarginal and superior temporal gyri. The importance of these brain regions for skilled reading was investigated in early literates, who learnt to read as children. We found anatomical connections linking the left and right angular and dorsal occipital gyri through the area of the corpus callosum where white matter was higher in late-literates than in illiterates; that reading, relative to object naming, increased the interhemispheric functional connectivity between the left and right angular gyri; and that activation in the left angular gyrus exerts top-down modulation on information flow from the left dorsal occipital gyrus to the left supramarginal gyrus. These findings demonstrate how the regions identified in late-literates interact during reading, relative to object naming, in early literates.
    Nature 10/2009; 461(7266):983-6. · 38.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Suppressing irrelevant words is essential to successful speech production and is expected to involve general control mechanisms that reduce interference from task-unrelated processing. To investigate the neural mechanisms that suppress visual word interference, we used fMRI and a Stroop task, using a block design with an event-related analysis. Participants indicated with a finger press whether a visual stimulus was colored pink or blue. The stimulus was either the written word "BLUE," the written word "PINK," or a string of four Xs, with word interference introduced when the meaning of the word and its color were "incongruent" (e.g., BLUE in pink hue) relative to congruent (e.g., BLUE in blue) or neutral (e.g., XXXX in pink). The participants also made color decisions in the presence of spatial interference rather than word interference (i.e., the Simon task). By blocking incongruent, congruent, and neutral trials, we identified activation related to the mechanisms that suppress interference as that which was greater at the end relative to the start of incongruency. This highlighted the role of the left head of caudate in the control of word interference but not spatial interference. The response in the left head of caudate contrasted to bilateral inferior frontal activation that was greater at the start than at the end of incongruency, and to the dorsal anterior cingulate gyrus which responded to a change in the motor response. Our study therefore provides novel insights into the role of the left head of caudate in the mechanisms that suppress word interference.
    Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 10/2009; 22(10):2369-86. · 4.49 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The left ventral premotor cortex (PMv) is preferentially activated by exemplars of tools, suggestive of category specificity in this region. Here we used state-dependent transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to investigate the causal role of such category-specific neuronal representations in the encoding of tool words. Priming to a category name (either "Tool" or "Animal") was used with the objective of modulating the initial activation state of this region prior to application of TMS and the presentation of the target stimulus. When the target word was an exemplar of the "Tool" category, the effects of TMS applied over PMv (but not PMd) interacted with priming history by facilitating reaction times on incongruent trials while not affecting congruent trials. This congruency/TMS interaction implies that the "Tool" and "Animal" primes had a differential effect on the initial activation state of the left PMv and implies that this region is one neural locus of category-specific behavioral priming for the "Tool" category. TMS applied over PMv had no behavioral effect when the target stimulus was an exemplar of the "Animal" category, regardless of whether the target word was congruent or incongruent with the prime. That TMS applied over the left PMv interacted with a priming effect that extended from the category name ("Tool") to exemplars of that category suggests that this region contains neuronal representation associated with a specific semantic category. Our results also demonstrate that the state-dependent effects obtained in the combination of visual priming and TMS are useful in the study of higher-level cognitive functions.
    NeuroImage 10/2009; 49(3):2728-34. · 6.25 Impact Factor
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    Patti Adank, Joseph T Devlin
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    ABSTRACT: Listeners show remarkable flexibility in processing variation in speech signal. One striking example is the ease with which they adapt to novel speech distortions such as listening to someone with a foreign accent. Behavioural studies suggest that significant improvements in comprehension occur rapidly--often within 10-20 sentences. In the present experiment, we investigate the neural changes underlying on-line adaptation to distorted speech using time-compressed speech. Listeners performed a sentence verification task on normal-speed and time-compressed sentences while their neural responses were recorded using fMRI. The results showed that rapid learning of the time-compressed speech occurred during presentation of the first block of 16 sentences and was associated with increased activation in left and right auditory association cortices and in left ventral premotor cortex. These findings suggest that the ability to adapt to a distorted speech signal may, in part, rely on mapping novel acoustic patterns onto existing articulatory motor plans, consistent with the idea that speech perception involves integrating multi-modal information including auditory and motoric cues.
    NeuroImage 08/2009; 49(1):1124-32. · 6.25 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Along with meaning and form, words can be described on the basis of their grammatical properties. Grammatical gender is often used to investigate the latter as it is a grammatical property that is independent of meaning. The left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) has been implicated in the encoding of grammatical gender, but its causal role in this process in neurologically normal observers has not been demonstrated. Here we combined verbal satiation with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to demonstrate that subpopulations of neurons within Broca's area respond preferentially to different classes of grammatical gender. Subjects were asked to classify Italian nouns into living and nonliving categories; half of these words were of masculine and the other half of feminine grammatical gender. Prior to each test block, a satiation paradigm (a phenomenon in which verbal repetition of a category name leads to a reduced access to that category) was used to modulate the initial state of the representations of either masculine or feminine noun categories. In the No TMS condition, subjects were slower in responding to exemplars to the satiated category relative to exemplars of the nonsatiated category, implying that the neural representations for different classes of grammatical gender are partly dissociable. The application of TMS over Broca's area removed the behavioral impact of verbal (grammatical) satiation, demonstrating the causal role of this region in the encoding of grammatical gender. These results show that the neural representations for different cases of a grammatical property within Broca's area are dissociable.
    NeuroImage 06/2009; 47(2):700-4. · 6.25 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: By virtue of its widespread afferent projections, perirhinal cortex is thought to bind polymodal information into abstract object-level representations. Consistent with this proposal, deficits in cross-modal integration have been reported after perirhinal lesions in nonhuman primates. It is therefore surprising that imaging studies of humans have not observed perirhinal activation during visual-tactile object matching. Critically, however, these studies did not differentiate between congruent and incongruent trials. This is important because successful integration can only occur when polymodal information indicates a single object (congruent) rather than different objects (incongruent). We scanned neurologically intact individuals using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while they matched shapes. We found higher perirhinal activation bilaterally for cross-modal (visual-tactile) than unimodal (visual-visual or tactile-tactile) matching, but only when visual and tactile attributes were congruent. Our results demonstrate that the human perirhinal cortex is involved in cross-modal, visual-tactile, integration and, thus, indicate a functional homology between human and monkey perirhinal cortices.
    Cerebral Cortex 05/2009; 19(12):2993-3000. · 8.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Regions of the human temporal lobe show greater activation for speech than for other sounds. These differences may reflect intrinsically specialized domain-specific adaptations for processing speech, or they may be driven by the significant expertise we have in listening to the speech signal. To test the expertise hypothesis, we used a video-game-based paradigm that tacitly trained listeners to categorize acoustically complex, artificial nonlinguistic sounds. Before and after training, we used functional MRI to measure how expertise with these sounds modulated temporal lobe activation. Participants' ability to explicitly categorize the nonspeech sounds predicted the change in pretraining to posttraining activation in speech-sensitive regions of the left posterior superior temporal sulcus, suggesting that emergent auditory expertise may help drive this functional regionalization. Thus, seemingly domain-specific patterns of neural activation in higher cortical regions may be driven in part by experience-based restructuring of high-dimensional perceptual space.
    Journal of Neuroscience 05/2009; 29(16):5234-9. · 6.91 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The debate regarding the role of ventral occipito-temporal cortex (vOTC) in visual word recognition arises, in part, from difficulty delineating the functional contributions of vOTC as separate from other areas of the reading network. Here, we investigated the feasibility of using TMS to interfere with vOTC processing in order to explore its specific contributions to visual word recognition. Three visual lexical decision experiments were conducted using neuronavigated TMS. The first demonstrated that repetitive stimulation of vOTC successfully slowed word, but not nonword, responses. The second confirmed and extended these findings by demonstrating the effect was specific to vOTC and not present in the adjacent lateral occipital complex. The final experiment used paired-pulse TMS to investigate the time course of vOTC processing for words and revealed activation starting as early as 80-120 msec poststimulus onset-significantly earlier than that expected based on electrophysiological and magnetoencephalography studies. Taken together, these results clearly indicate that TMS can be successfully used to stimulate parts of vOTC previously believed to be inaccessible and provide a new tool for systematically investigating the information processing characteristics of vOTC. In addition, the findings provide strong evidence that lexical status and frequency significantly affect vOTC processing, findings difficult to reconcile with prelexical accounts of vOTC function.
    Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 04/2009; 22(4):739-50. · 4.49 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

5k Citations
473.67 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2002–2014
    • University College London
      • • Department of Cognitive, Perceptual and Brain Sciences
      • • Wellcome Department of Imaging Neuroscience
      • • Institute of Neurology
      Londinium, England, United Kingdom
  • 2009–2012
    • Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language
      San Sebastián, Basque Country, Spain
    • The University of Manchester
      • School of Psychological Sciences
      Manchester, ENG, United Kingdom
    • University of Liverpool
      • School of Psychology
      Liverpool, ENG, United Kingdom
  • 2011
    • University of London
      Londinium, England, United Kingdom
  • 2010
    • Université Libre de Bruxelles
      Bruxelles, Brussels Capital Region, Belgium
  • 2002–2009
    • University of Oxford
      • • Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences
      • • Department of Experimental Psychology
      Oxford, ENG, United Kingdom
  • 2002–2007
    • Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust
      • Department of Clinical Neurology
      Oxford, England, United Kingdom
  • 2000
    • University of Cambridge
      • Centre for Speech, Language and the Brain
      Cambridge, ENG, United Kingdom
  • 1998–1999
    • University of Southern California
      Los Angeles, California, United States