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Lexical Ambiguity in Sentence Comprehension By R. A. Mason & M. A. Just Brain Research 1146 (2007) 115-127 Presented by Tatiana Luchkina.

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Presentation on theme: "Lexical Ambiguity in Sentence Comprehension By R. A. Mason & M. A. Just Brain Research 1146 (2007) 115-127 Presented by Tatiana Luchkina."— Presentation transcript:

1 Lexical Ambiguity in Sentence Comprehension By R. A. Mason & M. A. Just Brain Research 1146 (2007) Presented by Tatiana Luchkina

2 Background Lexical ambiguity demands the reader to select one Mg & retain the possibility of using another Mg at the same time; This ability is correlated with the memory capacity of the reader + the frequency of the ambiguous W Mgs; Correct analysis requires inhibition of the alternative Mg, erroneous analysis – creates a garden path effect;

3 Lexical Ambiguity Biased: a word’s Mgs are asymmetric in frequency, e.g., This time the ball was moved …. ….because it was always so well attended Balanced: two equally likely Mgs, e.g., …the cell looked small…. because it was piled high with supplies

4 BallCell Ball Cell Garden path effect Multiple Mgs maintained Q: Which ambiguity type takes longer to process??

5 Previous studies of Lexical Ambiguity Majority were grounded in behaviorist tradition, measuring: Reading times/response times Eye movements Cross-modal priming effects How about brain activity during the processing of lexical ambiguity?

6 Ambiguity & the brain Left Hemisphere – rapid fine semantic coding (only relevant Mgs); Right Hemisphere – slow coarse semantic coding (activates a broad spectrum of meanings); Left inferior frontal gyrus Left temporal lobe Left inferior temporal cortex & right inferior frontal cortex de-contextualized semantic analysis; categorization tasks contextualized semantic processing;

7 Left inferior (red) & superior (green) frontal regions become active while processing ambiguity

8 Study Brain imaging (fMRI) used to measure brain activity during the reading of Ss with lexically-ambiguous words vs. matched control words; Rationale: to measure brain activity when ambiguity occurs in early (biased) or late (unbiased) selection of meaning; How: brain responses to the processes of ambiguity resolution relate to individual differences in working memory capacity

9 Experiment: 12 right-handed volunteer college students; Stimuli: 36 sentences (ambiguous vs. control) with the target appearing before any disambiguating context; Sentences presented on the screen 1 W at a time, at a normal reading rate; A yes/no comprehension Q followed; Cerebral activation measured using blood oxygenation level contrast; Dep & Indep Variables: degrees & areas of cortical activation; individual’s working memory capacity; ambiguity types;

10 Findings Lex. Ambiguity evokes extra processing due to generation, retention, selection of multiple meanings and coherence monitoring; Reading of ambiguous Ss activated left inferior frontal gyros more than reading of control Ss; Biased condition only produced additional activation clusters in inferior/superior frontal regions of both hemispheres; Activation in the right hemisphere - spillover of processing to help resolve secondary Mgs;

11 Biased Ambiguity activates Right Inferior Frontal Region (circled in red)

12 Balanced Ambiguity – left inferior frontal region active only

13 Findings, cont’d. Activation patterns were correlated with the reading spans of the subjects, which reflected their working memory capacity; Readers with lower reading spans use right hemisphere, esp. right inferior frontal area, to resolve ambiguities & maintain multiple meanings during disambiguation; Bilateral extra activation occurs selectively & is minimal in the high-span subjects;

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