MEG Evidence for Incremental Sentence Composition in the Anterior Temporal Lobe

Jonathan R. Brennan, Liina Pylkkänen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research investigating the brain basis of language comprehension has associated the left anterior temporal lobe (ATL) with sentence-level combinatorics. Using magnetoencephalography (MEG), we test the parsing strategy implemented in this brain region. The number of incremental parse steps from a predictive left-corner parsing strategy that is supported by psycholinguistic research is compared with those from a less-predictive strategy. We test for a correlation between parse steps and source-localized MEG activity recorded while participants read a story. Left-corner parse steps correlated with activity in the left ATL around 350–500 ms after word onset. No other correlations specific to sentence comprehension were observed. These data indicate that the left ATL engages in combinatoric processing that is well characterized by a predictive left-corner parsing strategy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1515-1531
Number of pages17
JournalCognitive Science
StatePublished - May 2017


  • Language understanding
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Semantics
  • Syntax

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Artificial Intelligence


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