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MMN4language: why are we using it?
In: Fourth Conference on Mismatch Negativity (MMN) and its Clinical and Scientific Applications, p.35
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The MMN, a well-known index of automatic acoustic change detection, was recently found to be a sensitive indicator of long-term memory traces for native language sounds. When comparing MMNs to words and meaningless pseudowords, we found larger amplitudes for words than for meaningless items. This has been interpreted as a neurophysiological signature of word-specific memory networks/cell assemblies activated in the human brain in a largely automatic and attention-independent fashion. This enhancement of the word-elicited MMN, or lexical Representational Negativity (RN), has been now replicated by different groups using different languages and methodologies. We have also demonstrated that, using MMN, it is possible to register differences in the brain response to individual words and even to different aspect of referential semantics, suggesting that the cortical memory networks of individual lexical items can be revealed by the MMN. In other studies, we found evidence that the mismatch negativity reflects automatic syntactic processing commencing as early as ~100ms after the relevant information becomes available in acoustic input. In summary, neurophysiological imaging of the mismatch negativity response provides a unique opportunity to see subtle spatio-temporal dynamics of the language processing in the human cortex in lexical, semantic and syntactic domains. The talk briefly reviews the current state of affairs in neurophysiology of language, provides motivations for studying language function using MMN and offers an update on findings in this area which will discussed using a distributed neuronal network approach.