Electrophysiology reveals semantic memory use in language comprehension

Marta Kutas, Kara D. Federmeier

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

The physical energy that we refer to as a word, whether in isolation or embedded in sentences, takes its meaning from the knowledge stored in our brains through a lifetime of experience. Much empirical evidence indicates that, although this knowledge can be used fairly flexibly, it is functionally organized in 'semantic memory' along a number of dimensions, including similarity and association. Here, we review recent findings using an electrophysiological brain component, the N400, that reveal the nature and timing of semantic memory use during language comprehension. These findings show that the organization of semantic memory has an inherent impact on sentence processing. The left hemisphere, in particular, seems to capitalize on the organization of semantic memory to pre-activate the meaning of forthcoming words, even if this strategy fails at times. In addition, these electrophysiological results support a view of memory in which world knowledge is distributed across multiple, plastic-yet-structured, largely modality-specific processing areas, and in which meaning is an emergent, temporally extended process, influenced by experience, context, and the nature of the brain itself. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)463-470
Number of pages8
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Volume4
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2000
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Electrophysiology
Semantics
Language
Brain
Plastics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

Cite this

Electrophysiology reveals semantic memory use in language comprehension. / Kutas, Marta; Federmeier, Kara D.

In: Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Vol. 4, No. 12, 01.12.2000, p. 463-470.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

@article{4b8def971434431bb6b45ec6f6f0fd0f,
title = "Electrophysiology reveals semantic memory use in language comprehension",
abstract = "The physical energy that we refer to as a word, whether in isolation or embedded in sentences, takes its meaning from the knowledge stored in our brains through a lifetime of experience. Much empirical evidence indicates that, although this knowledge can be used fairly flexibly, it is functionally organized in 'semantic memory' along a number of dimensions, including similarity and association. Here, we review recent findings using an electrophysiological brain component, the N400, that reveal the nature and timing of semantic memory use during language comprehension. These findings show that the organization of semantic memory has an inherent impact on sentence processing. The left hemisphere, in particular, seems to capitalize on the organization of semantic memory to pre-activate the meaning of forthcoming words, even if this strategy fails at times. In addition, these electrophysiological results support a view of memory in which world knowledge is distributed across multiple, plastic-yet-structured, largely modality-specific processing areas, and in which meaning is an emergent, temporally extended process, influenced by experience, context, and the nature of the brain itself. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.",
author = "Marta Kutas and Federmeier, {Kara D.}",
year = "2000",
month = "12",
day = "1",
doi = "10.1016/S1364-6613(00)01560-6",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "4",
pages = "463--470",
journal = "Trends in Cognitive Sciences",
issn = "1364-6613",
publisher = "Elsevier Limited",
number = "12",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Electrophysiology reveals semantic memory use in language comprehension

AU - Kutas, Marta

AU - Federmeier, Kara D.

PY - 2000/12/1

Y1 - 2000/12/1

N2 - The physical energy that we refer to as a word, whether in isolation or embedded in sentences, takes its meaning from the knowledge stored in our brains through a lifetime of experience. Much empirical evidence indicates that, although this knowledge can be used fairly flexibly, it is functionally organized in 'semantic memory' along a number of dimensions, including similarity and association. Here, we review recent findings using an electrophysiological brain component, the N400, that reveal the nature and timing of semantic memory use during language comprehension. These findings show that the organization of semantic memory has an inherent impact on sentence processing. The left hemisphere, in particular, seems to capitalize on the organization of semantic memory to pre-activate the meaning of forthcoming words, even if this strategy fails at times. In addition, these electrophysiological results support a view of memory in which world knowledge is distributed across multiple, plastic-yet-structured, largely modality-specific processing areas, and in which meaning is an emergent, temporally extended process, influenced by experience, context, and the nature of the brain itself. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.

AB - The physical energy that we refer to as a word, whether in isolation or embedded in sentences, takes its meaning from the knowledge stored in our brains through a lifetime of experience. Much empirical evidence indicates that, although this knowledge can be used fairly flexibly, it is functionally organized in 'semantic memory' along a number of dimensions, including similarity and association. Here, we review recent findings using an electrophysiological brain component, the N400, that reveal the nature and timing of semantic memory use during language comprehension. These findings show that the organization of semantic memory has an inherent impact on sentence processing. The left hemisphere, in particular, seems to capitalize on the organization of semantic memory to pre-activate the meaning of forthcoming words, even if this strategy fails at times. In addition, these electrophysiological results support a view of memory in which world knowledge is distributed across multiple, plastic-yet-structured, largely modality-specific processing areas, and in which meaning is an emergent, temporally extended process, influenced by experience, context, and the nature of the brain itself. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=0034554860&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=0034554860&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1016/S1364-6613(00)01560-6

DO - 10.1016/S1364-6613(00)01560-6

M3 - Review article

AN - SCOPUS:0034554860

VL - 4

SP - 463

EP - 470

JO - Trends in Cognitive Sciences

JF - Trends in Cognitive Sciences

SN - 1364-6613

IS - 12

ER -