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Brief Research Report ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Hum. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2019.00304

Neurophysiological correlates of fast mapping of novel words in the adult brain

  • 1Department of Higher Nervous Activity and Psychophysiology, Laboratory of Behavioral Neurodynamics, Saint Petersburg State University, Russia
  • 2Department of Higher Nervous Activity and Psychophysiology , Laboratory of Behavioral Neurodynamics, Saint Petersburg State University, Russia
  • 3Laboratory of Behavioral Neurodynamics, Saint Petersburg State University, Russia
  • 4Center of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience, Aarhus University, Denmark

Word acquisition could be mediated by the neurocognitive mechanism known as fast mapping (FM). It refers to a process of incidental exclusion-based learning and is believed to be a critical mechanism for the rapid build-up of lexicon, although its neural mechanisms are still poorly understood. To investigate the neural bases of this key learning skill, we used event-related potentials (ERPs) and employed an audio-visual paradigm that included a counterbalanced set of familiar and novel spoken word forms presented, in a single exposure, in conjunction with novel and familiar images. To define learning-related brain dynamics, passive auditory ERPs, known to index long-term memory trace activation, were recorded before and after the FM task. Following the single FM learning exposure, we found a significant enhancement in neural activation elicited by the newly trained word form, which was expressed at ~200-400 ms after the word onset. No similar amplitude increase was found either for the native familiar word used as a control stimulus in the same learning paradigm or for similar control stimuli which were not subject to training. Topographic analysis suggested a more pronounced left-lateral shift of the ERP scalp distribution for the novel FM word form, underpinned by fronto-temporal cortical sources, which may indicate the involvement of pre-existing neurolinguistic networks for mastering new word forms with native phonology. Overall, the near-instant changes in neural activity after a single-shot novel word training indicate that FM could promote rapid integration of newly learned items into the brain’s neural lexicon, even in adulthood.

Keywords: Brain, event-related potential, Language, fast mapping, word, semantic, Learning, acquisition

Received: 18 Mar 2019; Accepted: 15 Aug 2019.

Edited by:

Björn H. Schott, Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology (LG), Germany

Reviewed by:

Jasmin M. Kizilirmak, German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE), Germany
Raphael Fargier, Aix-Marseille Université, France  

Copyright: © 2019 Vasilyeva, Knyazeva, Aleksandrov and Shtyrov. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Marina J. Vasilyeva, Saint Petersburg State University, Department of Higher Nervous Activity and Psychophysiology, Laboratory of Behavioral Neurodynamics, Saint Petersburg, Russia, marinajv@list.ru