Conversational interaction in the scanner: mentalizing during language processing as revealed by MEG

Sara Bögels, Dale J. Barr, Simon Garrod, Klaus Kessler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Humans are especially good at taking another's perspective-representing what others might be thinking or experiencing. This "mentalizing" capacity is apparent in everyday human interactions and conversations. We investigated its neural basis using magnetoencephalography. We focused on whether mentalizing was engaged spontaneously and routinely to understand an utterance's meaning or largely on-demand, to restore "common ground" when expectations were violated. Participants conversed with 1 of 2 confederate speakers and established tacit agreements about objects' names. In a subsequent "test" phase, some of these agreements were violated by either the same or a different speaker. Our analysis of the neural processing of test phase utterances revealed recruitment of neural circuits associated with language (temporal cortex), episodic memory (e.g., medial temporal lobe), and mentalizing (temporo-parietal junction and ventromedial prefrontal cortex). Theta oscillations (3-7 Hz) were modulated most prominently, and we observed phase coupling between functionally distinct neural circuits. The episodic memory and language circuits were recruited in anticipation of upcoming referring expressions, suggesting that context-sensitive predictions were spontaneously generated. In contrast, the mentalizing areas were recruited on-demand, as a means for detecting and resolving perceived pragmatic anomalies, with little evidence they were activated to make partner-specific predictions about upcoming linguistic utterances.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3219-3234
Number of pages16
JournalCerebral Cortex
Volume25
Issue number9
Early online date5 Jun 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2015

Fingerprint

Theory of Mind
Language
Episodic Memory
Temporal Lobe
Magnetoencephalography
Linguistics
Prefrontal Cortex
Names

Bibliographical note

© 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.

Grant number: ESRC RES-000-22-4325.

Supplementary data at http://cercor.oxfordjournals.org/content/suppl/2014/06/05/bhu116.DC1

Keywords

  • conversational interaction
  • episodic working memory
  • magnetoencephalography
  • theory of mind
  • perspective
  • taking pragmatics

Cite this

Bögels, Sara ; Barr, Dale J. ; Garrod, Simon ; Kessler, Klaus. / Conversational interaction in the scanner : mentalizing during language processing as revealed by MEG. In: Cerebral Cortex. 2015 ; Vol. 25, No. 9. pp. 3219-3234.
@article{60cc7dbf36114a2d8625cd52b6d0d624,
title = "Conversational interaction in the scanner: mentalizing during language processing as revealed by MEG",
abstract = "Humans are especially good at taking another's perspective-representing what others might be thinking or experiencing. This {"}mentalizing{"} capacity is apparent in everyday human interactions and conversations. We investigated its neural basis using magnetoencephalography. We focused on whether mentalizing was engaged spontaneously and routinely to understand an utterance's meaning or largely on-demand, to restore {"}common ground{"} when expectations were violated. Participants conversed with 1 of 2 confederate speakers and established tacit agreements about objects' names. In a subsequent {"}test{"} phase, some of these agreements were violated by either the same or a different speaker. Our analysis of the neural processing of test phase utterances revealed recruitment of neural circuits associated with language (temporal cortex), episodic memory (e.g., medial temporal lobe), and mentalizing (temporo-parietal junction and ventromedial prefrontal cortex). Theta oscillations (3-7 Hz) were modulated most prominently, and we observed phase coupling between functionally distinct neural circuits. The episodic memory and language circuits were recruited in anticipation of upcoming referring expressions, suggesting that context-sensitive predictions were spontaneously generated. In contrast, the mentalizing areas were recruited on-demand, as a means for detecting and resolving perceived pragmatic anomalies, with little evidence they were activated to make partner-specific predictions about upcoming linguistic utterances.",
keywords = "conversational interaction, episodic working memory, magnetoencephalography , theory of mind, perspective, taking pragmatics",
author = "Sara B{\"o}gels and Barr, {Dale J.} and Simon Garrod and Klaus Kessler",
note = "{\circledC} 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. Grant number: ESRC RES-000-22-4325. Supplementary data at http://cercor.oxfordjournals.org/content/suppl/2014/06/05/bhu116.DC1",
year = "2015",
month = "9",
doi = "10.1093/cercor/bhu116",
language = "English",
volume = "25",
pages = "3219--3234",
journal = "Cerebral Cortex",
issn = "1047-3211",
publisher = "Oxford University Press",
number = "9",

}

Conversational interaction in the scanner : mentalizing during language processing as revealed by MEG. / Bögels, Sara; Barr, Dale J.; Garrod, Simon; Kessler, Klaus.

In: Cerebral Cortex, Vol. 25, No. 9, 09.2015, p. 3219-3234.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

TY - JOUR

T1 - Conversational interaction in the scanner

T2 - mentalizing during language processing as revealed by MEG

AU - Bögels, Sara

AU - Barr, Dale J.

AU - Garrod, Simon

AU - Kessler, Klaus

N1 - © 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. Grant number: ESRC RES-000-22-4325. Supplementary data at http://cercor.oxfordjournals.org/content/suppl/2014/06/05/bhu116.DC1

PY - 2015/9

Y1 - 2015/9

N2 - Humans are especially good at taking another's perspective-representing what others might be thinking or experiencing. This "mentalizing" capacity is apparent in everyday human interactions and conversations. We investigated its neural basis using magnetoencephalography. We focused on whether mentalizing was engaged spontaneously and routinely to understand an utterance's meaning or largely on-demand, to restore "common ground" when expectations were violated. Participants conversed with 1 of 2 confederate speakers and established tacit agreements about objects' names. In a subsequent "test" phase, some of these agreements were violated by either the same or a different speaker. Our analysis of the neural processing of test phase utterances revealed recruitment of neural circuits associated with language (temporal cortex), episodic memory (e.g., medial temporal lobe), and mentalizing (temporo-parietal junction and ventromedial prefrontal cortex). Theta oscillations (3-7 Hz) were modulated most prominently, and we observed phase coupling between functionally distinct neural circuits. The episodic memory and language circuits were recruited in anticipation of upcoming referring expressions, suggesting that context-sensitive predictions were spontaneously generated. In contrast, the mentalizing areas were recruited on-demand, as a means for detecting and resolving perceived pragmatic anomalies, with little evidence they were activated to make partner-specific predictions about upcoming linguistic utterances.

AB - Humans are especially good at taking another's perspective-representing what others might be thinking or experiencing. This "mentalizing" capacity is apparent in everyday human interactions and conversations. We investigated its neural basis using magnetoencephalography. We focused on whether mentalizing was engaged spontaneously and routinely to understand an utterance's meaning or largely on-demand, to restore "common ground" when expectations were violated. Participants conversed with 1 of 2 confederate speakers and established tacit agreements about objects' names. In a subsequent "test" phase, some of these agreements were violated by either the same or a different speaker. Our analysis of the neural processing of test phase utterances revealed recruitment of neural circuits associated with language (temporal cortex), episodic memory (e.g., medial temporal lobe), and mentalizing (temporo-parietal junction and ventromedial prefrontal cortex). Theta oscillations (3-7 Hz) were modulated most prominently, and we observed phase coupling between functionally distinct neural circuits. The episodic memory and language circuits were recruited in anticipation of upcoming referring expressions, suggesting that context-sensitive predictions were spontaneously generated. In contrast, the mentalizing areas were recruited on-demand, as a means for detecting and resolving perceived pragmatic anomalies, with little evidence they were activated to make partner-specific predictions about upcoming linguistic utterances.

KW - conversational interaction

KW - episodic working memory

KW - magnetoencephalography

KW - theory of mind

KW - perspective

KW - taking pragmatics

UR - http://cercor.oxfordjournals.org/content/25/9/3219

U2 - 10.1093/cercor/bhu116

DO - 10.1093/cercor/bhu116

M3 - Article

C2 - 24904076

VL - 25

SP - 3219

EP - 3234

JO - Cerebral Cortex

JF - Cerebral Cortex

SN - 1047-3211

IS - 9

ER -