Activating words without language: beta and theta oscillations reflect lexical access and control processes during verbal and non-verbal object recognition tasks
Branzi, Francesca M.
Martin, Clara D.
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Francesca M Branzi and others, Activating words without language: beta and theta oscillations reflect lexical access and control processes during verbal and non-verbal object recognition tasks, Cerebral Cortex, Volume 33, Issue 10, 15 May 2023, Pages 6228–6240, https://doi.org/10.1093/cercor/bhac499
The intention to name an object modulates neural responses during object recognition tasks. However, the nature of this modulation is still unclear. We established whether a core operation in language, i.e. lexical access, can be observed even when the task does not require language (size-judgment task), and whether response selection in verbal versus non-verbal semantic tasks relies on similar neuronal processes. We measured and compared neuronal oscillatory activities and behavioral responses to the same set of pictures of meaningful objects, while the type of task participants had to perform (picture-naming versus size-judgment) and the type of stimuli to measure lexical access (cognate versus non-cognate) were manipulated. Despite activation of words was facilitated when the task required explicit word-retrieval (picture-naming task), lexical access occurred even without the intention to name the object (non-verbal size-judgment task). Activation of words and response selection were accompanied by beta (25–35 Hz) desynchronization and theta (3–7 Hz) synchronization, respectively. These effects were observed in both picture-naming and size-judgment tasks, suggesting that words became activated via similar mechanisms, irrespective of whether the task involves language explicitly. This finding has important implications to understand the link between core linguistic operations and performance in verbal and non-verbal semantic tasks.