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

Front. Hum. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2019.00380

Common Neural System for Sentence and Picture Comprehension across Languages: A Chinese–Japanese Bilingual Study

  • 1Hokkaido University, Japan
  • 2Psychology, Hokkaido University, Japan
  • 3INSERM U1093 Cognition, Action et Plasticité Sensomotrice, France

Whereas common semantic representations for individual words across languages have been identified, a common meaning system at sentence-level based on the grammatical construction of words has not been determined. In this study, fMRI was used to investigate whether an across-language sentence comprehension system exists. Chinese–Japanese bilingual participants (n = 32) were asked to determine whether two consecutive stimuli were related (congruent) or not (incongruent) to the same event. Stimuli were displayed with three different modalities (Chinese written sentences, Japanese written sentences, and photographs). The behavioral results showed no significant difference in accuracy and response times among the three modalities. Multi-voxel pattern analysis (MVPA) of fMRI data was used to classify the semantic relationship (congruent or incongruent) across the stimulus modalities. The classifier was first trained to determine congruency within Chinese sentences, and then tested with Japanese sentences, and vice versa. A whole-brain searchlight analysis revealed significant above-chance classification accuracy across Chinese and Japanese sentences in the supramarginal gyrus (BA 40), extending into the angular gyrus (BA 39), and the opercular (BA 44) and triangular (BA 45) part of the inferior frontal gyrus in the left hemisphere (cluster-level FWE corrected p < 0.05). Significant above-chance classification accuracy was also found across Japanese sentences and photographs in the supramarginal (BA 40) and angular gyrus (BA 39). These results indicate that a common meaning system for sentence processing across languages and modalities exists, and it involves the left inferior parietal gyrus.

Keywords: Semantic Processing, sentence comprehension, bilingualism, fMRI, MVPA

Received: 25 Jun 2019; Accepted: 11 Oct 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Hu, Yang, Yang, Nishida, Madden, Ventre-Dominey, Dominey and Ogawa. 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. Kenji Ogawa, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan,