Planning for language production: the electrophysiological signature of attention to the cue to speak


In conversation, speech planning can overlap with listening to the interlocutor. It has been postulated that once there is enough information to formulate a response, planning is initiated and the response is maintained in working memory. Concurrently, the auditory input is monitored for the turn end such that responses can be launched promptly. In three EEG experiments, we aimed to identify the neural signature of phonological planning and monitoring by comparing delayed responding to not responding (reading aloud, repetition and lexical decision). These comparisons consistently resulted in a sustained positivity and beta power reduction over posterior regions. We argue that these effects reflect attention to the sequence end. Phonological planning and maintenance were not detected in the neural signature even though it is highly likely these were taking place. This suggests that EEG must be used cautiously to identify response planning when the neural signal is overridden by attention effects.

In: Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 35, 915-932