The lexical nature of alpha-beta oscillations in context-driven word production


In context-driven word production, picture naming is faster following constrained than neutral sentential contexts (e.g., “The farmer milked the… [picture]” vs. “The child drew a… [picture]”, followed by the picture of a cow), suggesting conceptual-lexical pre-activation of the target response. Power decreases in the alpha-beta oscillatory band (8–25 Hz) are consistently found for constrained relative to neutral contexts prior to picture onset, when conceptual and lexical retrieval is ongoing. However, it remains a matter of debate whether the alpha-beta power decreases reflect (low-level) expectations of the visual input, conceptual and lexical retrieval, or motor preparation. The present study aimed at investigating the lexical-semantic nature of alpha-beta oscillations. Participants performed context-driven picture naming with constrained and neutral contexts. In addition, an auditory distractor word was presented before picture onset. Distractors were either semantically related (e.g., “goat”) or unrelated (e.g., “bean”) to the picture to be named. Picture naming was faster with constrained than neutral contexts. Distractor type did not affect naming latencies nor the behavioural context effect. In the oscillatory brain responses, the context-related alpha-beta power decreases were observed throughout the pre-picture interval when distractors were semantically unrelated to the picture, in line with previous findings. However, with semantically related distractors, the context effect was delayed until a period after distractor processing. Thus, alpha-beta power seems to be sensitive to the semantic relationship between the distractor word and the picture to be named. We interpret these results as suggesting that alpha-beta power decreases in context-driven word production reflect lexical-semantic retrieval mechanisms.

In: Journal of Neurolinguistics, (55), 100905