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Phonetic Skills and Verbal Memory Capacity Predict Phonetic-based Word Learning: An Event-related Potential Study


Elmer, Stefan; Dittinger, Eva; Brocchetto, Julia; François, Clément; Besson, Mireille; Jäncke, Lutz; Rodríguez-Fornells, Antoni (2021). Phonetic Skills and Verbal Memory Capacity Predict Phonetic-based Word Learning: An Event-related Potential Study. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 33(10):2093-2108.

Abstract

The learning of new words is a challenge that accompanies human beings throughout the entire life span. Although the main electrophysiological markers of word learning have already been described, little is known about the performance-dependent neural machinery underlying this exceptional human faculty. Furthermore, it is currently unknown how word learning abilities are related to verbal memory capacity, auditory attention functions, phonetic discrimination skills, and musicality. Accordingly, we used EEG and examined 40 individuals, who were assigned to two groups (low [LPs] and high performers [HPs]) based on a median split of word learning performance, while they completed a phonetic-based word learning task. Furthermore, we collected behavioral data during an attentive listening and a phonetic discrimination task with the same stimuli to address relationships between auditory attention and phonetic discrimination skills, word learning performance, and musicality. The phonetic-based word learning task, which also included a nonlearning control condition, was sensitive enough to segregate learning-specific and unspecific N200/N400 manifestations along the anterior-posterior topographical axis. Notably, HPs exhibited enhanced verbal memory capacity and we also revealed a performance-dependent spatial N400 pattern, with maximal amplitudes at posterior electrodes in HPs and central maxima in LPs. Furthermore, phonetic-based word learning performance correlated with verbal memory capacity and phonetic discrimination skills, whereas the latter was related to musicality. This experimental approach clearly highlights the multifaceted dimensions of phonetic-based word learning and is helpful to disentangle learning-specific and unspecific ERPs.

Abstract

The learning of new words is a challenge that accompanies human beings throughout the entire life span. Although the main electrophysiological markers of word learning have already been described, little is known about the performance-dependent neural machinery underlying this exceptional human faculty. Furthermore, it is currently unknown how word learning abilities are related to verbal memory capacity, auditory attention functions, phonetic discrimination skills, and musicality. Accordingly, we used EEG and examined 40 individuals, who were assigned to two groups (low [LPs] and high performers [HPs]) based on a median split of word learning performance, while they completed a phonetic-based word learning task. Furthermore, we collected behavioral data during an attentive listening and a phonetic discrimination task with the same stimuli to address relationships between auditory attention and phonetic discrimination skills, word learning performance, and musicality. The phonetic-based word learning task, which also included a nonlearning control condition, was sensitive enough to segregate learning-specific and unspecific N200/N400 manifestations along the anterior-posterior topographical axis. Notably, HPs exhibited enhanced verbal memory capacity and we also revealed a performance-dependent spatial N400 pattern, with maximal amplitudes at posterior electrodes in HPs and central maxima in LPs. Furthermore, phonetic-based word learning performance correlated with verbal memory capacity and phonetic discrimination skills, whereas the latter was related to musicality. This experimental approach clearly highlights the multifaceted dimensions of phonetic-based word learning and is helpful to disentangle learning-specific and unspecific ERPs.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
08 Research Priority Programs > Dynamics of Healthy Aging
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > Cognitive Neuroscience
Language:English
Date:1 September 2021
Deposited On:21 Sep 2021 08:51
Last Modified:22 Sep 2021 20:00
Publisher:MIT Press
ISSN:0898-929X
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1162/jocn_a_01745
PubMed ID:34407186
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID320030_163149
  • : Project TitleDie neuronalen Grundlagen des absoluten Gehörs und der Ton-Farbsynästhesie: Zwei Seiten einer Medaille?

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