Amie Fairs, Amandine Michelas, Sophie Dufour, & Kristof Strijkers
Cerebral Cortex Communications, Volume 2, Issue 3, 2021, tgab040
The temporal dynamics by which linguistic information becomes available is one of the key properties to understand how language is organized in the brain. An unresolved debate between different brain language models is whether words, the building blocks of language, are activated in a sequential or parallel manner. In this study, we approached this issue from a novel perspective by directly comparing the time course of word component activation in speech production versus perception. In an overt object naming task and a passive listening task, we analyzed with mixed linear models at the single-trial level the event-related brain potentials elicited by the same lexico-semantic and phonological word knowledge in the two language modalities. Results revealed that both word components manifested simultaneously as early as 75 ms after stimulus onset in production and perception; differences between the language modalities only became apparent after 300 ms of processing. The data provide evidence for ultra-rapid parallel dynamics of language processing and are interpreted within a neural assembly framework where words recruit the same integrated cell assemblies across production and perception. These word assemblies ignite early on in parallel and only later on reverberate in a behavior-specific manner. .