The posterior semantic asymmetry (PSA): An early brain electrical signature of semantic activation from written words

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HIGHLIGHTSReplication of a left-lateralized semantic processing negativity.Left-temporal origin suggested by CSD analysis.Validity indicated by correlations to measures of verbal intelligence.Component reflects the effort of concept activation from verbal material.This study replicates and extends the findings of Koppehele-Gossel, Schnuerch, and Gibbons (2016) of a posterior semantic asymmetry (PSA) in event-related brain potentials (ERPs), which closely tracks the time course and degree of semantic activation from single visual words. This negativity peaked 300ms after word onset, was derived by subtracting right- from left-side activity, and was larger in a semantic task compared to two non-semantic control tasks. The validity of the PSA in reflecting the effort to activate word meaning was again attested by a negative correlation between the meaning-specific PSA increase and verbal intelligence, even after controlling for nonverbal intelligence. Extending prior work, current source density (CSD) transformation was used. CSD results were consistent with a left temporo-parietal cortical origin of the PSA. Moreover, no PSA was found for pictorial material, suggesting that the component reflects early semantic processing specific to verbal stimuli.

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