Evidence of systematic double-dissociations of neural activity associated with the generation of regular and irregular past tense in healthy individuals may prove decisive in distinguishing between single- and dual-route models of morphological processing, because the former (connectionist models of morphological processing) have only been able to simulate double-dissociations of past-tense morphology as low-probability phenomena.
Twenty-eight channel event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded in response to past-tense production and subsequently analyzed using a 3-stage strategy.
A data-driven algorithm temporally segmented the ERPs into 16 distinct epochs of stable field configuration (microstates). A space-oriented brain electric field analysis determined that one of those epochs, 288-321 ms after the verb stem presentation, showed significant differences between the regular and irregular verb conditions. As a further test of these results, a novel source localization technique that computes 3-dimensional distribution of cortical current density in the Talairach brain atlas--low-resolution electromagnetic tomography--found in the above microstate more activity for regulars in the right prefrontal and right temporal areas and for irregulars in the left temporal areas and the anterior cingulate cortex, which can be taken as evidence of systematic double-dissociation.
The present results achieved with a source localization technique provide evidence of a two-way compartmentalization of neural activity corresponding to regular and irregular past tense, thus corroborating the dual-mechanism character of verb morphology.