Meaning composition in the brain

Source: Evelina Fedorenko, Terri L. Scott, Peter Brunnerd, William G. Coon, Brianna Pritchett, Gerwin Schalk, and Nancy Kanwisher (2016): Neural correlate of the construction of sentence meaning. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“How do circuits of neurons in your brain extract and hold the meaning of a sentence? To start to address this unanswered question, we measured neural activity from the surface of the human brain in patients being mapped out before neurosurgery, as they read sentences. In many electrodes, neural activity increased steadily over the course of the sentence, but the same was not found when participants read lists of words or pronounceable nonwords, or grammatical nonword strings (“Jabberwocky”). This build-up of neural activity appears to reflect neither word meaning nor syntax alone, but the representation of complex meanings.”

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