Visual statistical learning is related to natural language ability in adults: An ERP study

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Statistical learning (SL) is believed to enable language acquisition by allowing individuals to learn regularities within linguistic input. However, neural evidence supporting a direct relationship between SL and language ability is scarce. We investigated whether there are associations between event-related potential (ERP) correlates of SL and language abilities while controlling for the general level of selective attention. Seventeen adults completed tests of visual SL, receptive vocabulary, grammatical ability, and sentence completion. Response times and ERPs showed that SL is related to receptive vocabulary and grammatical ability. ERPs indicated that the relationship between SL and grammatical ability was independent of attention while the association between SL and receptive vocabulary depended on attention. The implications of these dissociative relationships in terms of underlying mechanisms of SL and language are discussed. These results further elucidate the cognitive nature of the links between SL mechanisms and language abilities.

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