Distinct time courses of word and context comprehension in the left temporal cortex
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The time course and cortical basis of reading comprehension were studied using magnetoencephalography. The cortical structures implicated most consistently with comprehension were located in the immediate vicinity of the left auditory cortex, where final words totally inappropriate to the overall sentence context evoked enduring activation starting approximately 250 ms and lasting up to 600 ms after word onset. Contextually appropriate but unexpected words produced weaker activation which terminated earlier. Highly anticipated words totally failed to activate this area, suggesting that the conceptual network became involved only if unexpected information was detected during the primary word identification process. We propose that the point in time (350 ms after word onset) where the response to appropriate but unexpected endings started to diverge from those to contextually inappropriate endings reflects the boundary between understanding a single word and the meaning of a whole sentence.
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