Integration of Word Meaning and World Knowledge in Language Comprehension

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Science  16 Apr 2004:
Vol. 304, Issue 5669, pp. 438-441
DOI: 10.1126/science.1095455

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Although the sentences that we hear or read have meaning, this does not necessarily mean that they are also true. Relatively little is known about the critical brain structures for, and the relative time course of, establishing the meaning and truth of linguistic expressions. We present electroencephalogram data that show the rapid parallel integration of both semantic and world knowledge during the interpretation of a sentence. Data from functional magnetic resonance imaging revealed that the left inferior prefrontal cortex is involved in the integration of both meaning and world knowledge. Finally, oscillatory brain responses indicate that the brain keeps a record of what makes a sentence hard to interpret.

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