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Neural Correlates of Subliminal Language Processing

Axelrod, V; Bar, M; Rees, G; Yovel, G; (2015) Neural Correlates of Subliminal Language Processing. Cerebral Cortex , 25 (8) pp. 2160-2169. 10.1093/cercor/bhu022. Green open access

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Language is a high-level cognitive function, so exploring the neural correlates of unconscious language processing is essential for understanding the limits of unconscious processing in general. The results of several functional magnetic resonance imaging studies have suggested that unconscious lexical and semantic processing is confined to the posterior temporal lobe, without involvement of the frontal lobe—the regions that are indispensable for conscious language processing. However, previous studies employed a similarly designed masked priming paradigm with briefly presented single and contextually unrelated words. It is thus possible, that the stimulation level was insufficiently strong to be detected in the high-level frontal regions. Here, in a high-resolution fMRI and multivariate pattern analysis study we explored the neural correlates of subliminal language processing using a novel paradigm, where written meaningful sentences were suppressed from awareness for extended duration using continuous flash suppression. We found that subjectively and objectively invisible meaningful sentences and unpronounceable nonwords could be discriminated not only in the left posterior superior temporal sulcus (STS), but critically, also in the left middle frontal gyrus. We conclude that frontal lobes play a role in unconscious language processing and that activation of the frontal lobes per se might not be sufficient for achieving conscious awareness.

Type: Article
Title: Neural Correlates of Subliminal Language Processing
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1093/cercor/bhu022
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/cercor/bhu022
Language: English
Additional information: © The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: Continuous flash suppression (CFS), decoding subliminal content, fMRI imaging of unconscious processing, multivoxel pattern classification analysis (MVPA), subliminal language processing
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1457146
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