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Psychol Sci. 2015 Jul;26(7):997-1005. doi: 10.1177/0956797615575743. Epub 2015 May 11.

It's All in the Family: Brain Asymmetry and Syntactic Processing of Word Class.

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Department of Psychology, University of Illinois Graduate Institute of Linguistics, National Taiwan University Department of Psychology, National Taiwan University Graduate Institute of Brain and Mind Sciences, National Taiwan University Neurobiology and Cognitive Neuroscience Center, National Taiwan University
Department of Psychology, University of Illinois Neuroscience Program, University of Illinois The Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, University of Illinois.


Although left-hemisphere (LH) specialization for language is often viewed as a key example of functional lateralization, there is increasing evidence that the right hemisphere (RH) can also extract meaning from words and sentences. However, the right hemisphere's ability to appreciate syntactic aspects of language remains poorly understood. In the current study, we used separable, functionally well-characterized electrophysiological indices of lexico-semantic and syntactic processes to demonstrate RH sensitivity to syntactic violations among right-handers with a strong manual preference. Critically, however, the nature of this RH sensitivity to structural information was modulated by a genetically determined factor--familial sinistrality. The right hemisphere in right-handers without left-handed family members processed syntactic violations via the words' accompanying lexico-semantic unexpectedness. In contrast, the right hemisphere in right-handers with left-handed family members could process syntactic information in a manner qualitatively similar to that of the left hemisphere.


N400; P600; hemispheric differences; language lateralization; open data; open materials; right hemisphere syntactic processing; word class violation

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