Jonathan Simon, Ellen Lau (Linguistics)

Funding Agency

UMD Brain and Behavior Initiative


Much previous research has established that listeners and readers routinely generate context-based predictions that constrain perception and interpretation of language, but the form of this top-down/bottom-up interaction is still hotly debated. One critical question is how far down the processing hierarchy predictions are propagated—e.g. if ‘I heard a dog…’ predicts the word ‘bark’, does this modulate neural responses in units that represent lower-level speech sounds and acoustic features, as well as higher-level semantic units? This project aims to study this question for non-native speakers with difficulties in language comprehension. The method proposed here is poised to provide more accurate estimates of top-down influences on neural responses because it tackles longstanding limitations of standard approaches with respect to the format of the input (controlled vs. naturalistic) and the ability to estimate spatiotemporal response functions for multiple stages of processing simultaneously.