Event comprehension in the brain: objects 'before' compete with themselves 'after'

Hills Building room 1.20
Life and Environmental Sciences, Research
Tuesday 5th February 2013 (16:00-17:00)

For more information please contact Contact: Dr Ulrik Beierholm (u.beierholm@bham.ac.uk).

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Part of the School Seminar Series

Speaker: Professor Gerry Altman, University of York

Host: Steven Frisson, School of Psychology

To understand that an object has changed state during an event, wemust represent the ‘before’ and ‘after’ states of that object. Because aphysical object cannot be in multiple states at any one moment in time,these ‘before’ and ‘after’ object states are mutually exclusive. In thesame way that alternative states of a physical object are mutuallyexclusive, are cognitive and linguistic representations of alternativeobject states also incompatible? If so, comprehending an object statechangeshould involve interference between the constituent objectstates. Through a series of functional magnetic resonance imagingexperiments, we test the hypothesis that comprehension of object statechange,during language understanding, requires the cognitive system toresolve conflict between representationally distinct brain states. Resultsfrom these experiments suggest that distinct and incompatiblerepresentations of an object do compete when representing object statechange;and that the greater the dissimilarity between the describedobject states, the greater the dissimilarity between rival brain states, andthe greater the conflict. I shall include an obligatory statement on whyanyone should care, as well as discussion of how neuroimaging caninform cognitive theory.