Distinct Effects of Memory Retrieval and Articulatory Preparation when Learning and Accessing New Word Forms
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Temporal and frontal activations have been implicated in learning of novel word forms, but their specific roles remain poorly understood. The present magnetoencephalography (MEG) study examines the roles of these areas in processing newly-established word form representations. The cortical effects related to acquiring new phonological word forms during incidental learning were localized. Participants listened to and repeated back new word form stimuli that adhered to native phonology (Finnish pseudowords) or were foreign (Korean words), with a subset of the stimuli recurring four times. Subsequently, a modified 1-back task and a recognition task addressed whether the activations modulated by learning were related to planning for overt articulation, while parametrically added noise probed reliance on developing memory representations during effortful perception. Learning resulted in decreased left superior temporal and increased bilateral frontal premotor activation for familiar compared to new items. The left temporal learning effect persisted in all tasks and was strongest when stimuli were embedded in intermediate noise. In the noisy conditions, native phonotactics evoked overall enhanced left temporal activation. In contrast, the frontal learning effects were present only in conditions requiring overt repetition and were more pronounced for the foreign language. The results indicate a functional dissociation between temporal and frontal activations in learning new phonological word forms: the left superior temporal responses reflect activation of newly-established word-form representations, also during degraded sensory input, whereas the frontal premotor effects are related to planning for articulation and are not preserved in noise.
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