Alpha and theta band dynamics related to sentential constraint and word expectancy

Joost Rommers, Danielle S. Dickson, James J.S. Norton, Edward W. Wlotko, Kara D. Federmeier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite strong evidence for prediction during language comprehension, the underlying mechanisms, and the extent to which they are specific to language, remain unclear. Re-analysing an event-related potentials study, we examined responses in the time-frequency domain to expected and unexpected (but plausible) words in strongly and weakly constraining sentences, and found results similar to those reported in nonverbal domains. Relative to expected words, unexpected words elicited an increase in the theta band (4–7 Hz) in strongly constraining contexts, suggesting the involvement of control processes to deal with the consequences of having a prediction disconfirmed. Prior to critical word onset, strongly constraining sentences exhibited a decrease in the alpha band (8–12 Hz) relative to weakly constraining sentences, suggesting that comprehenders can take advantage of predictive sentence contexts to prepare for the input. The results suggest that the brain recruits domain-general preparation and control mechanisms when making and assessing predictions during sentence comprehension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)576-589
Number of pages14
JournalLanguage, Cognition and Neuroscience
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 28 2017


  • Prediction
  • frontal theta
  • language
  • pre-stimulus alpha
  • sentence comprehension

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Alpha and theta band dynamics related to sentential constraint and word expectancy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this