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The influence of lexical statistics on temporal lobe cortical dynamics during spoken word listening


Neural representations of words are thought to have a complex spatio-temporal cortical basis. It has been suggested that spoken word recognition is not a process of feed-forward computations from phonetic to lexical forms, but rather involves the online integration of bottom-up input with stored lexical knowledge. Using direct neural recordings from the temporal lobe, we examined cortical responses to words and pseudowords. We found that neural populations were not only sensitive to lexical status (real vs. pseudo), but also to cohort size (number of words matching the phonetic input at each time point) and cohort frequency (lexical frequency of those words). These lexical variables modulated neural activity from the posterior to anterior temporal lobe, and also dynamically as the stimuli unfolded on a millisecond time scale. Our findings indicate that word recognition is not purely modular, but relies on rapid and online integration of multiple sources of lexical knowledge.

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