Automatic vs. controlled processes in semantic priming - Differentiation by event-related potentials

Universitaet Heidelberg, Psychiatrische Klinik, Heidelberg, Germany.
International Journal of Psychophysiology (Impact Factor: 2.88). 07/2002; 44(3):197-218. DOI: 10.1016/S0167-8760(01)00202-1
Source: PubMed


Semantic network models propose that automatic (e.g. spreading activation) and controlled processes are involved in semantic priming. Behavioural studies propose that the influence of each of these processes depends on the stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA). To investigate this hypothesis with a more sensitive method, we applied high-resolution event-related potential (ERP) measures to a word-pseudoword lexical decision task that contained direct, indirect, and non-related prime-target pairs. SOAs consisted of 150 or 700 ms. The results showed that independently of SOA, increasing semantic distance prolonged reaction times and enlarged N400 amplitudes. Furthermore, the word-pseudoword decision evoked a parieto-central late positive complex (LPC respectively delayed P300), which was sensitive for semantic relatedness in the short SOA only. In addition, we found two early frontal components: a P250 in the short SOA only and a N310 sensitive to semantic relatedness more prominent in the short SOA. We conclude that ERP-differences between both SOAs indicate two separate processes: (1) an access to semantic memory, which is facilitated by spreading activation in the short SOA only; and (2) an SOA-independent, controlled process, which integrates prime and target words into a semantic context.

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    • "Increasing the SOA length has been shown to augment the magnitude of the N400 component (Anderson & Holcomb, 1995; Hill et al., 2005), to modulate its distribution and timing (Anderson & Holcomb, 1995), or to have different effects depending on the ERP component (Franklin et al., 2007; Hill et al., 2002). In Hill et al. (2002), the N400 effect was obtained at both short and long SOAs, while a frontally distributed early negativity and a posteriorly distributed late component were found only at the short SOA. "
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    ABSTRACT: Both automatic and controlled mechanisms have been shown to contribute to the magnitude of the N400 priming effect in adults. It has been proposed that at short stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs), automatic processes are engaged, while at long SOAs, controlled processes are activated. Here, we explored whether the magnitude of event-related potentials (ERPs) in 18-month-old children are SOA-dependent to further understand the developmental mechanisms underlying semantic priming during early language acquisition. Children were exposed to an auditory semantic priming task in two invariant SOA conditions (1000 ms and 1600 ms). The results showed that the amplitudes of N2, N400 and late posterior negativity (LPN) components were modulated by semantic relatedness, but only those of N2 and LPN were modulated by the SOA length. The amplitudes of the frontally distributed N2 were larger at long than at short SOAs, while the posteriorly distributed LPN was larger over the right hemisphere at the short SOA and more pronounced over the left hemisphere at the long SOA. These findings suggest that both automatic and controlled processes contribute to priming effects in the developing brain, but neural resources underlying these processes might differ.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2015 · Journal of Neurolinguistics
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    • "Its estimated sources were mostly located in the left DLPFC (inferior frontal gyrus) and the right fusiform gyrus (see Fig. 4). While early studies described this ERP component as a marker of syntactic violation (Friederici and Meyer, 2004), recent studies challenged this interpretation by showing LPC in response to semantic violations or anomalies in the absence of any syntactic violation (Grieder et al., 2012; Hill et al., 2002). In addition, a LPC could be recorded in response to various manipulations of verbal semantics such as inversion of causality (e.g. "
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    ABSTRACT: Our ability to identify covert cognitive abilities in non-communicating patients is of prime importance to improve diagnosis, to guide therapeutic decisions and to better predict their cognitive outcome. In the present study, we used a basic and rigorous paradigm contrasting pairs of words orthogonally. This paradigm enables the probing of semantic processing by comparing neural activity elicited by similar words delivered in various combinations. We describe the respective timing, topography and estimated cortical sources of two successive event-related potentials (ERP) components (N400 and late positive component (LPC)) using high-density EEG in conscious controls (N=20) and in minimally conscious (MCS; N=15) and vegetative states (VS; N=15) patients recorded at bedside. Whereas N400-like ERP components could be observed in the VS, MCS and conscious groups, only MCS and conscious groups showed a LPC response, suggesting that this late effect could be a potential specific marker of conscious semantic processing. This result is coherent with recent findings disentangling early and local non-conscious responses (e.g.: MMN in odd-ball paradigms, N400 in semantic violation paradigms) from late, distributed and conscious responses (e.g.: P3b to auditory rule violation) in controls and in patients with disorders of consciousness. However, N400 and LPC responses were not easily observed at the individual level, – even in conscious controls – , with standard ERP analyses, which is a limiting factor for its clinical use. Of potential interest, the only 3 patients presenting both significant N400 and LPC effects were MCS, and 2 of them regained consciousness and functional language abilities.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2015 · Neuropsychologia
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    • "Based on previous ERP priming studies (Kiefer, Weisbrod, Kern, Maier, & Spitzer, 1998; Weisbrod et al., 1999), we expected priming effects for related conditions, and that the N400 elicited by unrelated prime-target pairs would be larger and more negative than the N400 elicited by related pairs. However, prime–target pairs that make up productive relationships should need additional resources because of the external association between them, such as access to semantic memory facilitated by spreading activation, which would be reflected in the later ERP effect (Chen et al., 2013; Hill et al., 2002). "
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    ABSTRACT: Most current models of knowledge organization are based on hierarchical (plant-pine) or taxonomic categories (animal-plant). Another important organizational pattern is thematic categories, which performs external or complementary roles in the same scenario or event (bee-honey). The goal of this study was to explore the processing of hierarchical categories and thematic categories under automatic processing conditions that minimize strategic influences. The Evoked response potential (ERP) procedure was used to examine the time course of semantic priming for category members with a short stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA) of 300ms as participants performed a lexical decision task. Six experimental conditions were compared: hierarchical relations (offspring-grandson), internal features (gold-golden), productive relations (bee-honey), script relations (room-tenant), unrelated (star-spoon), and non-word trials (star-derf). We found faster reaction times for related prime-target pairs than unrelated pairs except for productive relations. The ERP data showed that an early N400 effect (200-400ms) was more negative for unrelated words than for all related words. Furthermore, a frontal negativity (400-550ms) elicited by productive relations was smaller (more positive) than other related words. We suggest that the smaller frontal negativity in the processing of productive relations indicates their increased salience in knowledge structure compared to less prominent hierarchical relations. Indeed, the allocation of attentional resources and subsequent recruitment of additional memory processing might be two of the hallmarks of thematic relations.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2014 · Neuropsychologia
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