Sentential negation modulates inhibition in a stop-signal task. Evidence from behavioral and ERP data

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Embodiment theories claim that language meaning involves sensory–motor simulation processes in the brain. A challenge for these theories, however, is to explain how abstract words, such as negations, are processed. In this article, we test the hypothesis that understanding sentential negation (e.g., You will not cut the bread) reuses the neural circuitry of response inhibition. Participants read manual action sentences with either affirmative or negative polarity, embedded in a Stop–Signal paradigm, while their EEG was recorded. The results showed that the inhibition-related N1 and P3 components were enhanced by successful inhibition. Most important, the early N1 amplitude was also modulated by sentence polarity, producing the largest values for successful inhibitions in the context of negative sentences, whereas no polarity effect was found for failing inhibition or go trials. The estimated neural sources for N1 effects revealed activations in the right inferior frontal gyrus, a typical inhibition-related area. Also, the estimated stop-signal reaction time was larger in trials with negative sentences. These results provide strong evidence that action-related negative sentences consume neural resources of response inhibition, resulting in less efficient processing in the Stop–Signal task.HighlightsAffirmative and negative sentences interacted with a Stop–Signal Task.Negation delayed inhibition response (Stop–Signal reaction time, SSRT).Negation enhanced inhibition-related N1 for successful stops trials.rIFG sources accounted for N1 effects, suggesting pro-active processes.Negation of action sentences demands response inhibition mechanisms.

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