The role of Broca’s area in regular past-tense morphology: an event-related potential study

Justus, Timothy and Larsen, Jary and Yang, Jennifer and De Mornay Davies, Paul and Dronkers, Nina and Swick, Diane (2011) The role of Broca’s area in regular past-tense morphology: an event-related potential study. Neuropsychologia, 49 (1). pp. 1-18. ISSN 0028-3932


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It has been suggested that damage to anterior regions of the left hemisphere results in a dissociation in the perception and lexical activation of past-tense forms. Specifically, in a lexical-decision task in which past-tense primes immediately precede present-tense targets, such patients demonstrate significant priming for irregular verbs (spoke–speak), but, unlike control participants, fail to do so for regular verbs (looked–look). Here, this behavioral dissociation was first confirmed in a group of eleven patients with damage to the pars opercularis (BA 44) and pars triangularis (BA 45) of the left inferior frontal gyrus (i.e., Broca’s area). Two conditions containing word-onset orthographic–phonological overlap (bead–bee, barge–bar) demonstrated that the disrupted regular-verb priming was accompanied by, and covaried with, disrupted ortho-phonological priming, regardless of whether prime stimuli contained the regular inflectional rhyme pattern. Further, the dissociation between impaired regular-verb and preserved irregular-verb priming was shown to be continuous rather than categorical; priming for weak-irregular verbs (spent–spend) was intermediate in size between that of regular verbs and strong verbs. Such continuous dissociations grounded in ortho-phonological relationships between present- and past-tense forms are predicted by single-system, connectionist approaches to inflectional morphology and not predicted by current dual-system, rule-based models. Event-related potential data demonstrated that N400 priming effects were intact for both regular and irregular verbs, suggesting that the absence of significant regular-verb priming in the response time data did not result from a disruption of lexical access, and may have stemmed instead from post-lexical events such as covert articulation, segmentation strategies, and/or cognitive control.

Item Type:Article
Research Areas:Health & Education > Psychology
Citations on ISI Web of Science:1
ID Code:7302
Permissions granted by publisher:Post refereed version as permitted by publisher.
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Deposited On:16 Mar 2011 10:49
Last Modified:19 Nov 2013 12:47

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