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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

Summer 1994, Vol. 6, No. 3, Pages 204-219
(doi: 10.1162/jocn.1994.6.3.204)
© 1994 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Neurophysiological Manifestations of Phonological Processing: Latency Variation of a Negative ERP Component Timelocked to Phonological Mismatch
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Two experiments examined phonological priming effects on reaction times, error rates, and event-related brain potential (ERP) measures in an auditory lexical decision task. In Experiment 1 related prime-target pairs rhymed, and in Experiment 2 they alliterated (i.e., shared the consonantal onset and vowel). Event-related potentials were recorded in a delayed response task. Reaction times and error rates were obtained both for the delayed and an immediate response task. The behavioral data of Experiment 1 provided evidence for phonological facilitation of word, but not of nonword decisions. The brain potentials were more negative to unrelated than to rhyming word-word pairs between 450 and 700 rnsec after target onset. This negative enhancement was not present for word-nonword pairs. Thus, the ERP results match the behavioral data. The behavioral data of Experiment 2 provided no evidence for phonological Facilitation. However, between 250 and 450 msec after target onset, i.e., considerably earlier than in Experiment 1, brain potentials were more negative for unrelated than for alliterating Word-word and word-nonword pairs. It is argued that the ERP effects in the two experiments could be modulations of the same underlying component, possibly the N400. The difference in the timing of the effects is likely to be due to the fact that the shared segments in related stimulus pairs appeared in different word positions in the two experiments.