Friedemann Pulvermüller

Friedemann Pulvermüller
Freie Universität Berlin | FUB · Brain Language Laboratory, Department of Philosophy & Humanities, WE4

Prof; Dr phil; Dr rer soc

About

377
Publications
113,473
Reads
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Introduction
What are the nerve cell circuits that enable us to understand? My colleagues and I address facets of this question by theorizing, experimenting and modelling. Individual projects focus on the binding between a word’s form and meaning, the binding between different words and morphemes in well-formed syntactic strings and the relationship between perception, action and language mechanisms in the brain. I also work on the treatment of language deficits caused by disease of the brain, e.g. aphasia.
Additional affiliations
August 2014 - present
University of Malaga
Position
  • Professor
November 2011 - present
Freie Universität Berlin
Position
  • Professor
January 2007 - December 2010
Saint Petersburg State University
Position
  • Professor

Publications

Publications (377)
Article
Full-text available
Understanding language semantically related to actions activates the motor cortex. This activation is sensitive to semantic information such as the body part used to perform the action (e.g. arm-/leg-related action words). Additionally, motor movements of the hands/feet can have a causal effect on memory maintenance of action words, suggesting that...
Article
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The recent finding of predictive brain signals preceding anticipated perceptual and linguistic stimuli opens new questions for experimental research. Here, we address the possible brain basis of phonological predictions regarding the features of specific speech sounds and their relationship to phonological priming. To this end, we recorded EEG corr...
Article
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The offer of some cake can be declined by saying "I am on a diet"-an indirect reply. Here, we asked whether certain well-established psychological and conceptual features are linked to the (in)directness of speech acts-an issue unexplored so far. Subjects rated direct and indirect speech acts performed by the same critical linguistic forms in diffe...
Article
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Brain tumors cause local structural impairments of the cerebral network. Moreover, brain tumors can also affect functional brain networks more distant from the lesion. In this study, we analyzed the impact of glioma WHO grade II-IV tumors on grey and white matter in relation to impaired language function. In a retrospective analysis of 60 patients,...
Article
Full-text available
Humans share the ability to intuitively map 'sharp' or 'round' pseudowords, such as 'bouba' versus 'kiki', to abstract edgy versus round shapes, respectively. This effect, known as sound symbolism, appears early in human development. The phylogenetic origin of this phenomenon, however, is unclear: are humans the only species capable of experiencing...
Article
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During conversations, speech prosody provides important clues about the speaker’s communicative intentions. In many languages, a rising vocal pitch at the end of a sentence typically expresses a question function, whereas a falling pitch suggests a statement. Here, the neurophysiological basis of intonation and speech act understanding were investi...
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This study seeks to confirm whether lesions in posterior regions of the brain involved in visuo-spatial processing are of functional relevance to the processing of words with spatial meaning. We investigated whether patients with Posterior Cortical Atrophy (PCA), an atypical form of Alzheimer’s Disease which predominantly affects parieto-occipital...
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A neurobiologically constrained deep neural network mimicking cortical areas relevant for sensorimotor, linguistic and conceptual processing was used to investigate the putative biological mechanisms underlying conceptual category formation and semantic feature extraction. Networks were trained to learn neural patterns representing specific objects...
Preprint
Neuronal populations code similar concepts by similar activity patterns across the human brain's networks supporting language comprehension. However, it is unclear to what extent such meaning-to-symbol mapping reflects statistical distributions of symbol meanings in language use, as quantified by word co-occurrence frequencies, or, rather, experien...
Article
Brain tumors cause local structural impairments of the cerebral network. Moreover, brain tumors can also affect functional brain networks more distant from the lesion. In this study, we analyzed the impact of glioma WHO grade II-IV tumors on grey and white matter in relation to impaired language function. In a retrospective analysis of 60 patients,...
Article
Full-text available
Background. Intensive aphasia therapy can improve language functions in chronic aphasia over a short therapy interval of 2–4 weeks. For one intensive method, intensive language–action therapy, beneficial effects are well documented by a range of randomized controlled trials. However, it is unclear to date whether therapy-related improvements are ma...
Article
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Neural network models are potential tools for improving our understanding of complex brain functions. To address this goal, these models need to be neurobiologically realistic. However, although neural networks have advanced dramatically in recent years and even achieve human-like performance on complex perceptual and cognitive tasks, their similar...
Article
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Embodied theories of grounded semantics postulate that, when word meaning is first acquired, a link is established between symbol (word form) and corresponding semantic information present in modality-specific-including primary-sensorimotor cortices of the brain. Direct experimental evidence documenting the emergence of such a link (i.e., showing t...
Article
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People normally know what they want to communicate before they start speaking. However, brain indicators of communication are typically observed only after speech act onset, and it is unclear when any anticipatory brain activity prior to speaking might first emerge, along with the communicative intentions it possibly reflects. Here, we investigated...
Article
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A class of semantic theories defines concepts in terms of statistical distributions of lexical items, basing meaning on vectors of word co-occurrence frequencies. A different approach emphasizes abstract hierarchical taxonomic relationships among concepts. However, the functional relevance of these different accounts and how they capture informatio...
Article
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Traditionally, language production and perception have been studied separately, but investigating both jointly is needed to understand language use in its default context: conversation.Presently, however, the overlap between both modalities is unclear, even for the basic build-ing blocks of language, words. We aim at filling this gap by comparing t...
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With strong and valid predictions, grasping a message is easy, whereas more demanding processing is required in the absence of robust expectations. We here demonstrate that brain correlates of the interplay between prediction and perception mechanisms in the understanding of meaningful sentences. Sentence fragments that strongly predict subsequent...
Article
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Background Impaired naming is a ubiquitous symptom in all types of aphasia, which often adversely impacts independence, quality of life, and recovery of affected individuals. Previous research has demonstrated that naming can be facilitated by phonological and semantic cueing strategies that are largely incorporated into the treatment of anomic dis...
Article
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Introduction: Depressive symptoms are a major drawback of aphasia, negatively impacting on functional outcomes. In a previous study, Intensive Language-Action Therapy (ILAT) was effective in improving depression and low mood in persons with chronic non-fluent aphasia. We present a proof-of-concept case–control study that evaluates language and mood...
Article
Purpose This study aimed to provide novel insights into the neural correlates of language improvement following intensive language-action therapy (ILAT; also known as constraint-induced aphasia therapy). Method Sixteen people with chronic aphasia underwent clinical aphasia assessment (Aachen Aphasia Test [AAT]), as well as functional magnetic reso...
Article
Full-text available
We highlight a novel brain correlate of prediction, the prediction potential (or PP), a slow negative-going potential shift preceding visual, acoustic, and spoken or written verbal stimuli that can be predicted from their context. The cortical sources underlying the prediction potential reflect perceptual and semantic features of anticipated stimul...
Article
Full-text available
Sound symbolism, the surprising semantic relationship between meaningless pseudowords (e.g., ‘maluma’, ‘takete’) and abstract (round vs. sharp) shapes, is a hitherto unexplained human-specific knowledge domain. Here we explore whether abstract sound symbolic links can be explained by those between the sounds and shapes of bodily actions. To this en...
Preprint
Full-text available
Background: Impaired naming is a ubiquitous symptom in all types of aphasia, which often adversely impacts independence, quality of life, and recovery of affected individuals. Previous research has demonstrated that naming can be facilitated by phonemic and semantic cueing strategies that are largely incorporated into the treatment of anomic distur...
Preprint
Full-text available
Background: Impaired naming is a ubiquitous symptom in all types of aphasia, which often adversely impacts independence, quality of life, and recovery of affected individuals. Previous research has demonstrated that naming can be facilitated by phonological and semantic cueing strategies that are largely incorporated into the treatment of anomic di...
Article
Full-text available
This study asks whether lesions in different parts of the brain have different effects on the processing of words typically used to refer to objects with and without action affordances, for example tools and animal related nouns. A cohort of neurological patients with focal lesions participated in a lexical decision paradigm where nouns semanticall...
Article
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In the healthy human brain, the processing of language is strongly lateralised, usually to the left hemisphere, while the processing of complex non-linguistic sounds recruits brain regions bilaterally. Here we asked whether the anterior temporal lobes, strongly implicated in semantic processing, are critical to this special treatment of spoken word...
Article
Full-text available
During everyday social interaction, gestures are a fundamental part of human communication. The communicative pragmatic role of hand gestures and their interaction with spoken language has been documented at the earliest stage of language development, in which two types of indexical gestures are most prominent: the pointing gesture for directing at...
Article
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The neurophysiological mechanisms underlying motor and language difficulties in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are still largely unclear. The present work investigates biological indicators of sound processing, (action-) semantic understanding and predictive coding and their correlation with clinical symptoms of ASD. Twenty-two adults with high-fu...
Article
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Theories on the evolution of language highlight iconicity as one of the unique features of human language. One important manifestation of iconicity is sound symbolism, the intrinsic relationship between meaningless speech sounds and visual shapes, as exemplified by the famous correspondences between the pseudowords ‘maluma’ vs. ‘takete’ and abstrac...
Article
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Is the meaning of an expected stimulus manifest in brain activity even before it appears? Although theories of predictive coding see anticipatory activity as crucial for the understanding of brain function, few studies have explored neurophysiologically manifest semantic predictions. Here, we report predictive negative-going potentials before the o...
Article
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Background and Purpose— Evidence suggests that therapy can be effective in recovering from aphasia, provided that it consists of socially embedded, intensive training of behaviorally relevant tasks. However, the resources of healthcare systems are often too limited to provide such treatment at sufficient dosage. Hence, there is a need for evidence-...
Article
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In blind people, the visual cortex takes on higher cognitive functions, including language. Why this functional reorganisation mechanistically emerges at the neuronal circuit level is still unclear. Here, we use a biologically constrained network model implementing features of anatomical structure, neurophysiological function and connectivity of fr...
Article
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It is a long-standing question in neurolinguistics, to what extent language can have a causal effect on perception. A recent behavioural study reported that participants improved their discrimination ability of Braille-like tactile stimuli after one week of implicit association training with language stimuli being co-presented redundantly with the...
Article
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Neuromodulation technologies, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), are promising tools for neurorehabilitation, aphasia therapy included, but not yet in common clinical use. Combined with behavioral techniques, in particular treatment-efficient Intensive Language-Action Therapy (ILAT, previously CIAT or CILT), TMS could substantially am...
Preprint
In the healthy human brain, the processing of spoken words is strongly left-lateralised, while the processing of complex non-linguistic sounds recruits brain regions bilaterally. Here we asked whether the left anterior temporal lobe, strongly implicated in semantic processing, is critical to this special treatment of linguistic stimuli. Nine patien...
Article
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One of the most controversial debates in cognitive neuroscience concerns the cortical locus of semantic knowledge and processing in the human brain. Experimental data revealed the existence of various cortical regions relevant for meaning processing, ranging from semantic hubs generally involved in semantic processing to modality-preferential senso...
Preprint
When understanding language semantically related to actions, the motor cortex is active and may be sensitive to semantic information, for example about the body-part-relationship of displayed action-related words. Conversely, movements of the hands or feet can impair memory performance for arm- and leg-related action words respectively, suggesting...
Article
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How can we understand causal relationships and how can we understand words such as ‘cause’? Some theorists assume that the underlying abstract concept is given to us, and that perceptual correlation provides the relevant hints towards inferring causation from perceived real-life events. A different approach emphasizes the role of actions and their...
Article
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Signs and symbols relate to concepts and can be used to speak about objects, actions, and their features. Theories of semantic grounding address the question how the latter two, concepts and real-world entities, come into play and interlink in symbol learning. Here, a neurobiological model is used to spell out concrete mechanisms of symbol groundin...
Article
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Recent neuropsychological studies in neurological patients and healthy subjects suggest a close functional relationship between the brain systems for language and action. Facilitation and inhibition effects of motor system activity on language processing have been demonstrated as well as causal effects in the reverse direction, from language proces...
Article
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Separable affix verbs consist of a stem and a derivational affix, which, in some languages can appear together or in discontinuous, distributed form, e.g., German “aufgreifen” and “greifen … auf” [“up-pick(ing)” and “pick … up”]. Certain stems can combine with only certain affixes. However, many such combinations are evaluated not as clearly correc...
Article
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Objective: Recent evidence has fuelled the debate on the role of massed practice in the rehabilitation of chronic post-stroke aphasia. Here, we further determined the optimal daily dosage and total duration of intensive speech-language therapy. Methods: Individuals with chronic aphasia more than 1 year post-stroke received Intensive Language-Act...
Article
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Background: Patients with brain lesions and resultant chronic aphasia frequently suffer from depression. However, no effective interventions are available to target neuropsychiatric symptoms in patients with aphasia who have severe language and communication deficits. Objective: The present study aimed to investigate the efficacy of 2 different...
Article
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Within the neurocognitive literature there is much debate about the role of the motor system in language, social communication and conceptual processing. We suggest, here, that autism spectrum conditions (ASC) may afford an excellent test case for investigating and evaluating contemporary neurocognitive models, most notably a neurobiological theory...
Article
One of the key statements of linguistic relativity is that language has a causal effect on perception. Although much previous research has addressed such putative language perception causality, no firm proof is available thus far which demonstrates that verbal labels help or otherwise influence perceptual processes. Here, we tested the hypothesis o...
Article
Previous research showed that modality-preferential sensorimotor areas are relevant for processing concrete words used to speak about actions. However, whether modality-preferential areas also play a role for abstract words is still under debate. Whereas recent fMRI studies suggest an involvement of motor cortex in processing the meaning of abstrac...
Article
Full-text available
The status of particle verbs such as rise (…) up as either lexically stored or combinatorially assembled is an issue which so far has not been settled decisively. In this study, we use the mismatch negativity (MMN) brain response to observe neurophysiological responses to discontinuous particle verbs. The MMN can be used to distinguish between whol...
Article
Background Aphasia affects approximately one third of all stroke patients and may lead to chronic disability. Effective neurorehabilitation programs focusing on improving speech and language in patients with post-stroke aphasia are essential. A better understanding of the neurobiological processes accompanying language deficits and rehabilitation m...
Article
Full-text available
Language production models typically assume that retrieving a word for articulation is a sequential process with substantial functional delays between conceptual, lexical, phonological and motor processing, respectively. Nevertheless, explicit evidence contrasting the spatiotemporal dynamics between different word production components is scarce. H...
Article
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Neurocognitive and neurolinguistics theories make explicit statements relating specialized cognitive and linguistic processes to specific brain loci. These linking hypotheses are in need of neurobiological explanation. Recent mathematical models of human language mechanisms constrained by fundamental neuroscience principles and established knowledg...
Article
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A range of methods in clinical research aim to assess treatment-induced progress in aphasia therapy. Here, we used a crossover randomized controlled design to compare the suitability of utterance-centered and dialogue-sensitive outcome measures in speech-language testing. Fourteen individuals with post-stroke chronic non-fluent aphasia each receive...