Age-related shifts in hemispheric dominance for syntactic processing

Michelle Leckey, Kara D. Federmeier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent ERP data from young adults have revealed that simple syntactic anomalies elicit different patterns of lateralization in right-handed participants depending upon their familial sinistrality profile (whether or not they have left-handed biological relatives). Right-handed participants who do not have left-handed relatives showed a strongly lateralized response pattern, with P600 responses following left-hemisphere-biased presentations and N400 responses following right-hemisphere-biased presentations. Given that the literature on aging has documented a tendency to change across adulthood from asymmetry of function to a more bilateral pattern, we tested the stability of this asymmetric response to syntactic violations by recording ERPs as 24 older adults (age 60+) with no history of familial sinistrality made grammaticality judgments on simple two-word phrases. Results showed that the asymmetric pattern observed in right-handed adults without familial sinistrality indeed changes with age, such that P600 responses come to be elicited not only with left-hemisphere-biased but also with right-hemisphere-biased presentations in older adults. These findings suggest that, as with many other cognitive functions, syntactic processing becomes more bilateral with age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1929-1939
Number of pages11
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2017


  • ERPs
  • P600
  • aging
  • syntactic processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry


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