Yao-Ying Lai & Michiru Makuuchi

Yao-Ying Lai & Michiru Makuuchi

Lecture 3 | Leipzig Lectures on Language—Combinatorics 2021

June 02, 2021


Brain mechanisms of semantic/pragmatic processing of sentences

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often have characteristic problems in pragmatic processing of language. We hypothesize that the differences of ASD from typically development (TD) in comprehension of a sentence stem from the difference in cognitive style, specifically in that of reasoning. To build the more focused research questions, we embrace the dual process account (DPA, Evans 2003, Trends in Cognitive Sciences) that postulates two distinct reasoning systems: the system 1 is evolutionary old domain-specific system, while the system 2 is human-unique domain general system. We try to relate the results of our recent semantic/pragmatic behavioral and fMRI experiments to the theory using Autism-spectrum quotient (AQ) of TD participants. One fMRI study, led by Dr Ma Qiong, was on the neural mechanisms of pain evaluation on a single short sentence. The study revealed contrasting brain responses to two semantically distinct types of sentences. Yao-Ying Lai will discuss the neurocognitive mechanisms of semantic composition in temporal interpretation, probed via self-paced reading and fMRI.


About the speakers

Yao-Ying Lai is Assistant professor at the Graduate Institute of Linguistics, National Chengchi University in Taipei, Taiwan. She investigates the neurocognitive mechanisms of real-time language processing using various behavioral & neurological techniques (e.g., self-paced reading, eye-tracking, fMRI), seeking to address how our cognitive system and brain work to obtain the meaning of linguistic expressions in context. 

Michiru Makuuchi is head of the Section of Neuropsychology at the Research institute of National Rehabilitation Center for Persons with Disabilities in Tokorozawa, Japan. His research focus is the brain mechanisms of language, with understanding the function of Broca's area as a key research question. He uses neuroimaging techniques such as fMRI, EEG, and TMS. The results of his research agenda are used to provide a basis for developing rehabilitation methods for aphasics and people with cognitive impairments.

Keywords: language processing; pragmatics; semantics

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