We review the discovery, characterization, and evolving use of the N400, an event-related brain potential response linked to meaning processing. We describe the elicitation of N400s by an impressive range of stimulus typesincluding written, spoken, and signed words or pseudowords; drawings, photos, and videos of faces, objects, and actions; sounds; and mathematical symbolsand outline the sensitivity of N400 amplitude (as its latency is remarkably constant) to linguistic and nonlinguistic manipulations. We emphasize the effectiveness of the N400 as a dependent variable for examining almost every aspect of language processing and highlight its expanding use to probe semantic memory and to determine how the neurocognitive system dynamically and flexibly uses bottom-up and top-down information to make sense of the world. We conclude with different theories of the N400's functional significance and offer an N400-inspired reconceptualization of how meaning processing might unfold.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||27|
|Journal||Annual review of psychology|
|State||Published - Jan 10 2011|
- context effects
- nonlinguistic stimuli
ASJC Scopus subject areas