N+1, Issue 1: Negation (Summer 2004)

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Event-related brain potentials elicited during processing of target words preceded by true black lines and false grey dashed lines negated sentence content. Figure 2a: Visual effects. Figure 2b: Frontal negativity and late positive potential LPP. Results of individual subjects are summarized in Table 1 and Table 2. Amplitudes of the frontal negativity and the parietal positivity were modulated in the same direction as predicted from the group data when determined for single subjects at the frontal or parietal electrode clusters.

This study examined the neural correlates underlying the evaluation of true and false negated expressions by means of EEG-ERP methods.

In contrast to previous research, in the present study a purely verbal and auditory stimulation paradigm was used, no overt response of the participant was required, participants were given enough processing time to mentally evaluate the meaning of the negated expressions and effects of negation were examined both on a word and sentence level. We aimed at finding out if under such processing conditions ERP responses elicited by false and true negated expressions were reliable indicators of higher-order cognitive processing in healthy individuals and could thus be used to determine consciousness and residual cognitive abilities in patients with DOC.

Analysis of ERPs in our sample of healthy individuals revealed that across the word and sentence levels cortical processing was augmented during processing of false target words as compared to true target words. Enhanced cortical processing of false targets was reflected by a frontal negativity potential and an enhanced cortical positivity potential at parietal electrodes, whose amplitudes were both larger for false compared to true target words in the time window from — msec post target word onset. Single subject data see Table 1 and Table 2 confirmed that these ERP patterns are not the result of a few individuals.

Research on language processing suggests that detection of an inconsistency within a semantic context that violates participants' expectancies of common world knowledge is associated with larger amplitudes of the so called N potential [27] , [39] and accompanied by enhanced amplitudes of a late centro-parietally distributed positivity, the so called P potential [27] , [32] — [33] or LPP [34].

Whereas modulation of the N is assumed to be more directly related with the detection of violations from people's expectancies during language comprehension [26] , [40] , amplitudes of the P or LPP are thought to index memory-based stimulus encoding and post-semantic reintegration processes [34] , [41]. Notably, for both conditions word and sentence conditions , these effects are unlikely to result from automatic priming effects induced by differences between the stimuli's semantic relatedness.

1. Some Basic Concepts

In this case, one would have expected larger processing effects for true vs. Our results therefore indicate that participants were able to override such automatically activated semantic priming effects and replace them with contextually appropriate contents, which requires that individuals took the meaning of the negation into account. Theoretically, our results are in good accordance with two factor models of negation processing [23].

These models assume that processing of negation relies on the active construal of two mental simulations including the affirmed and the negated state of affairs. The simulation of these mental models affords considerable processing time before inferences about the truth value of the negated content can be made. Likewise, Deutsch et al. In this view, evaluation of the truth value of a negated expression even when examined on a word level cannot be solved automatically, but only by means of higher-order cognitive and conscious processes, a fact that makes the current paradigm very attractive for research on disorders of consciousness.

Previous research into the intricacies of DOC using neurophysiological measures such as event-related brain potentials or functional imaging has focused either on the processing of less complex stimuli, on the processing of personally relevant material or on un-negated, semantically related and unrelated verbal material, whose processing might be explained by more automatic processing.

Table of contents

Up to know, very little is known about more complex and conscious cognitive processing in DOC although evidence for conscious processing in DOC is growing. In a recent functional imaging study, Monti et al. Before each imagery condition verbal cues indicated which imagery condition should be performed. Brain activity elicited during each imagery condition was compared to a resting condition. Both imagery tasks elicit distinct brain activity patterns in the motor cortex tennis playing or the parahippocampal gyrus spatial navigation in healthy subjects [44] — [45].

Of the 54 patients, 5 patients were able to follow the instructions and wilfully modulate their brain activity in the predicted direction. The results of this multi-subject study are ground-breaking and impressive although the interpretation of the results as evidence for consciousness and wilful action in DOC has been challenged in the literature [46] — [47]. By experimental manipulation of the semantic-relatedness of the stimulus material and its truth value our paradigm controls for both: effects attributable to simple priming effects and effects related to language comprehension.

Thus, our paradigm could possibly differentiate patients with different levels of consciousness. Regarding patients with DOC we would expect that patients diagnosed with UWS should be unable to evaluate the truth value of a negated expression and respond only to the semantic relatedness of the material. Accordingly, in these patients ERP patterns would point in the opposite direction of what is implied logically by the negation, because true but not false negated expressions contain a semantic violation. MCS patients, in contrast, might respond similar to healthy controls.

Together with other tasks and approaches [e. In particular, due to the advantage of EEG, our paradigm could be easily used in large patient samples throughout the entire course of the disease without discomfort for the patient. It could be even performed at the patients' home. Nevertheless, before these goals can be reached, results have to be replicated in larger samples of healthy subjects and different age groups to scrutinize the reliability and validity of the observed effects. To the best of our knowledge, the present study is the first EEG-ERP study to investigate negation processing in the auditory modality for purely verbal material and without requiring an overt behavioral response of the participant.

Thus, our EEG-ERP effects are novel, but therefore also only partly comparable with results obtained from previous negation research using predominantly visual material. Specifically, the following issues deserve further investigation: Firstly, in the present study, we found amplitudes of a frontal negativity to vary as a function of the truth value of the negated expression. Previous EEG-ERP negation studies report effects pointing in the same direction as those observed in the current study when comparable delays as those in the current study are used [30] — [31].

However, the effects differ with respect to their topography. In previous EEG studies, processing of true and false negated statements modulated amplitudes of the N potential and the N had a more centro-parietal distribution. The frontal negativity potential observed in the present study, on the contrary, was most pronounced over frontal and fronto-central electrodes see Figure 1 and 2b.

So far, it is unclear, if these differences can be accounted for by differences in the stimulus material, the sensory modality visual vs. Secondly, we found processing of target words related to false negated statements to elicit significantly larger negative ERP amplitudes at parieto-occipital electrodes compared to target words preceded by true negated statements. This effect was significant in the sentence condition and preceded the frontal negativity and LPP effects.

Regarding language processing, crossmodal sensory effects are well documented in the literature [48] even in blind people [49].

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If functional connectivity between the auditory and the visual modality is preserved in DOC is unclear. Future studies using our paradigm could clarify this point. Thirdly, we compared ERP effects related to true and false negated expressions at very long temporal delays.


Given that within a negated context, previous studies demonstrated evaluation of the truth value of an expression to vary as a function of processing time, EEG-ERP studies should also incorporate shorter possibly also longer delays between the negated expression and the target stimuli than those used in the present study. This would help to localize the exact time windows during which processing differences between true and false negated expressions can be expected to be most pronounced, particularly when effects of negation are studied with acoustically presented material.

Negation is a universal feature of human language and cognition. It is not restricted to factual knowledge. Finally, in future studies, negation could also be used with personally relevant information such as the SON to determine different levels of self-awareness in healthy subjects and in patients with DOC. In conclusion, our study provides important insight into how true and false negated information is processed. Our study extends the previous negation literature from the visual to the auditory modality and determined the neural correlates underlying the processing and comprehension of negated information.

According to our results, paradigms using negated stimulus material could provide valuable insight into higher-order processing related to language comprehension and reasoning in healthy subjects and in patients with DOC, from unresponsive wakefulness to minimal consciousness to full conscious awareness.

Conceived and designed the experiments: CH. Performed the experiments: CH. Analyzed the data: CH. Wrote the paper: CH AK. Browse Subject Areas? Click through the PLOS taxonomy to find articles in your field. Abstract The present study investigated event-related brain potentials elicited by true and false negated statements to evaluate if discrimination of the truth value of negated information relies on conscious processing and requires higher-order cognitive processing in healthy subjects across different levels of stimulus complexity. Introduction The question of what constitutes consciousness has fascinated researchers from different research disciplines for years and centuries.

Participants Eighteen healthy adults 14 females, mean age: Stimulus Material Experimental stimuli consisted of negated sentences and negated prime-target pairs that could be true and semantically incongruent or false and semantically congruent. Experimental Design and Procedure Prime-target pairs and sentences were presented in separate runs.

Physiological data collection and reduction Electroencephalographic recordings. Single-subject data — msec To evaluate the stability of the reported effects, particularly of the late ERP potential differences of the frontal negativity and the parietal positivity, these effects were also determined at the single-subject level for the frontal and parietal electrode clusters. Download: PPT. Sentence condition For targets embedded in a sentence context significant effects were observed in both time windows.

Single subject data — msec time window Results of individual subjects are summarized in Table 1 and Table 2. Discussion This study examined the neural correlates underlying the evaluation of true and false negated expressions by means of EEG-ERP methods. Acknowledgments We thank Rebecca Spatz for help with data acquisition and analyses. Author Contributions Conceived and designed the experiments: CH.

References 1. BMC Medicine 8: View Article Google Scholar 2. Lancet Neurology 3: — View Article Google Scholar 3. Clinical Neurophysiology — View Article Google Scholar 4. View Article Google Scholar 5. View Article Google Scholar 6. Science — View Article Google Scholar 7. Brainwaves and Mind: Recent Advances.

Piled Higher and Deeper

New York: Kjellberg Inc. Neuropsychologia 12— View Article Google Scholar 9. Archives of Neurology — View Article Google Scholar Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry — Neurology — Clinical Neurophysiology 99— Progress in Brain Research — Journal of Neurology — Nature — Cognition B1—B Consciousness and Cognition — Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences — Psychological Review 45— Cognitive Psychology 3: — Higher level language processes in the brain: Inference and comprehension processes.

Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. Neuroimage — Psychophysiology — Trends in Cognitive Sciences 4: — Kaup B Negation and its impact on the accessibility of text information. Memory and Cognition — Kaup B, Zwaan RA Effects of negation and situational presence on the accessibility of text information. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience — Brain Research — Brain Research Cognitive Brain Research — Biological Psychology 19— Dehaene S, Nacchache L Towards a cognitive neuroscience of consciousness: basic evidence and a workspace framework.

Cogntition 1— Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology — Skrandies W Global field power and topographic similarity. Brain Topography 3: — Psychometrika 95— The Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience — In assessing an ELL's paper, for example, a teacher may circle mistakes, commenting, "Pay attention to your English," "Too many errors," or worse yet, the trite and useless "Awkward. Telling students to pay attention to their English when the teacher in fact cannot explain the error fails to help students learn anything useful.

Teachers may be so distracted by these errors, even though they are a natural and predictable part of second language acquisition Ellis, , that they cannot accurately assess a student's knowledge of content because the ELL's grammar accent hinders the comprehensibility of his or her answers. Teachers who have become more aware of typical ELL errors are better able to focus on content—science, history, math—and not be negatively swayed by grammar errors.

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However, teachers can only ignore these errors if they first know about them. In my teacher training courses on assessing writing, I give preservice teachers a short example of a passage written by an ELL to practice assessing ELL writing. They are first instructed to circle all the errors. They are then told to cross out errors that they cannot explain. Unfortunately, the result is a paper with most of the circled areas crossed out.

Most teachers cannot explain the errors, and because teachers teach what they know, they therefore never teach ELLs about pertinent grammar issues. After making these mistakes repeatedly, ELLs who get no negative feedback or effective error correction will eventually assimilate, or fossilize Ellis, , these incorrect structures, so lack of teacher intervention—teaching—can have serious consequences. Another example of the importance of knowing ESL grammar involves judging the level of a reading passage. Teachers frequently ask about the grade level of certain reading material. Although this calculation is not difficult to determine for native-English-speaking readers, it is quite a messy determination for ELLs.

For native speakers, the factors taken into account when calculating the reading difficulty of a passage include the number of sentences in a paragraph, of words in each sentence, and then of syllables in each word. However, this emphasis on counting, especially the number of syllables in a word, does not work as well in determining ELL readability.

If these criteria are not sufficient for judging readability, then what is? I recommend examining the vocabulary and grammar of the passage. There are many aspects of ESL grammar that contribute to the readability of a passage, but three typical areas are verb tenses, phrasal verbs, and reduced forms. Beginning-level passages tend to use present, present progressive, and past tenses because the forms and usages are easier.

Present perfect is one of the most difficult parts of ESL grammar because both the form and usage are complicated. In addition, present perfect tense can be used for a past event I have lived in Japan before , a current event I have lived here since , and a future event After you have lived here for a month, you can get a driver's license.

ELLs are rightfully confused by a verb tense that can seemingly be used for any time: the past, the present, and the future. For more detailed info on phrasal verbs, see Folse, , pp. There are three reasons that ELLs may have trouble deciphering the meaning of a sentence with phrasal verbs. First, phrasal verbs are often idiomatic. ELLs cannot deduce the meaning of a phrasal verb by studying its individual constituent words.

Third, phrasal verbs are usually polysemous, so ELLs have to consider multiple meanings. Advanced passages also have sentences that begin with reduced adverb clauses that originally meant "because. Native speakers have an easier time understanding these reductions than ELLs do, yet most native speakers cannot explain why these reductions are allowable. For an overview on full and reduced adjective clauses, see Folse, , pp.

Logically, teachers teach what they know.

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This new knowledge can empower K—12 teachers to be better sources of English input for all ELLs, leading to better teaching and better learning. We use simple past tense for a past completed action and present perfect for an action that began in the past but still continues. Noun objects of phrasal verbs may or may not be separated called the game off; called off the game , but pronoun objects must be separated called it off.