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Cortical plasticity induced by rapid Hebbian learning of novel tonal word-forms: Evidence from mismatch negativity

Lookup NU author(s): Jinxing Yue, Dr Kai Alter


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Although several experiments reported rapid cortical plasticity induced by passive exposure to novel segmental patterns, few studies have devoted attention to the neural dynamics during the rapid learning of novel tonal word-forms in tonal languages, such as Chinese. In the current study, native speakers of Mandarin Chinese were exposed to acoustically matched real and novel segment-tone patterns. By recording their Mismatch Negativity (MMN) responses (an ERP indicator of long-term memory traces for spoken words), we found enhanced MMNs to the novel word-forms over the left-hemispheric region in the late exposure phase relative to the early exposure phase. In contrast, no significant changes were identified in MMN responses to the real word during familiarisation. Our results suggest a rapid Hebbian learning mechanism in the human neocortex which develops long-term memory traces for a novel segment-tone pattern by establishing new associations between the segmental and tonal representations. (C) 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Yue JX, Bastiaanse R, Alter K

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Brain and Language

Year: 2014

Volume: 139

Pages: 10-22

Print publication date: 01/12/2014

Online publication date: 22/10/2014

Acceptance date: 21/09/2014

ISSN (print): 0093-934X

ISSN (electronic): 1090-2155

Publisher: Academic Press


DOI: 10.1016/j.bandl.2014.09.007


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Funder referenceFunder name
Erasmus Mundus Joint Doctorate (EMJD) Fellowship, Institute of Neuroscience, Newcastle University
12YJCZH262Ministry of Education of P. R. China