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News

We are glad to invite students to participate in our projects:

Project 1: Cognitive control.
Project 2: Acquisition of word meaning through trial-and-error learning.
(1) The role of motor cortical areas in word meaning.(2) The role of verbal working memory and subvocal articulatory mechanisms in speech learning.(3) The role of consolidation in speech learning.

Project 1: Cognitive control.

Subtopics:

(1) The role of internal uncertainty in signaling the need for cognitive control.

(2) Expectation of the feedback signal vs. the actual feedback signal.

 

Cognitive control is a functional set of processes that provides maintenance of adaptive goal-directed behavior. It includes several functions, including attention and initiation of motor responses. Cognitive control is closely related to such topics as reinforcement/reward/punishment, working memory, decision-making, action planning, executive control, etc. Cognitive control and related phenomena have numerous electroencephalographic and magnetoencephalographic signatures. Errors evoke an increase in the power of frontal midline theta (FMT). Suppression of the power of alpha oscillations over parietal and occipital cortical areas reflects adjustments of attention. Prefrontal beta oscillations increase after an unexpected positive feedback (reinforcement). Errors are accompanied by specific event-related components such as ERN, FRN and others.

The goal of the project is to reveal the brain mechanisms of cognitive control using such experimental variables as certainty/uncertainty, expectation, attentional selection, etc. We use both EEG and MEG.

 

Project 2: Acquisition of word meaning through trial-and-error learning.

(1) The role of motor cortical areas in word meaning.

(2) The role of verbal working memory and subvocal articulatory mechanisms in speech learning.

(3) The role of consolidation in speech learning.

 

The nature of meaning assigned to words poses challenging questions to philosophy and neuroscience. Recent psychophysiological and behavioral studies have shown that classical understanding of brain mechanisms involved in language comprehension need to be revised in several important aspects. First, word meaning is represented by numerous distributed brain areas related to corresponding representations of sensory and motor experience – rather than by classical speech centers alone. This understanding stays in line with the modern concept of "embodied", or "grounded" cognition. Second, comprehension of word meaning occurs much faster than it was believed before: the initial brain signature of semantic processing may be evident as early as 50 - 80 ms after word onset, thus being predominantly subconscious, not requiring voluntary attention. Third, natural language acquisition seems to involve biological mechanisms of associative learning and it is largely based on "trial-and-error" principle, but neural underpinnings of learning of word meaning from experience remain largely unclear.

The project aims at understanding the brain mechanism responsible for acquisition of word meaning by way of magnetoencephalographic recording throughout of the process of rapid associative learning; the research is conducted in the framework of the concept of "embodied", or "grounded" cognition.