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Cortex. 2006 May;42(4):591-604.

Determinants of bold signal correlates of processing object-extracted relative clauses.

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  • 1Neuropsychology Laboratory, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston 02114, USA.


Event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to investigate the determinants of blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) signal correlates of processing relative clauses. Matched pairs of sentences that differed in their processing demands were compared. One member of the pair consisted of a syntactically simpler object-subject (OS) sentence, containing a subject-relativized clause attached to the object noun phrase. The second member of the pair consisted of a syntactically more complex subject-object (SO) sentence, containing an object-relativized clause attached to the subject noun phrase. Participants made plausibility judgments about the sentences in whole sentence visual presentation. Voxel-wise statistical activation maps showed increased BOLD signal in multiple cortical regions for complex compared to simple syntactic structures. This pattern was found for plausible sentences only and, within the set of plausible sentences, for SO sentences in which the head noun of the relative clause was animate and the subject noun of the relative clause was inanimate. These results require a re-interpretation of previous results with the same materials using positron emission tomography.

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