Research on language comprehension using event-related potentials (ERPs) reported distinct ERP components reliably related to the processing of semantic (N400) and syntactic information (P600). Recent ERP studies have challenged this well-defined distinction by showing P600 effects for semantic and pragmatic anomalies. So far, it is still unresolved whether the P600 reflects specific or rather common processes. The present study addresses this question by investigating ERPs in response to a syntactic and pragmatic (irony) manipulation, as well as a combined syntactic and pragmatic manipulation. For the syntactic condition, a morphosyntactic violation was applied, whereas for the pragmatic condition, such as " That is rich", either an ironic or literal interpretation was achieved, depending on the prior context. The ERPs at the critical word showed a LAN-P600 pattern for syntactically incorrect sentences relative to correct ones. For ironic compared to literal sentences, ERPs showed a P200 effect followed by a P600 component. In comparison of the syntax-related P600 to the irony-related P600, distributional differences were found. Moreover, for the P600 time window (i.e., 500-900 ms), different changes in theta power between the syntax and pragmatics effects were found, suggesting that different patterns of neural activity contributed to each respective effect. Thus, both late positivities seem to be differently sensitive to these two types of linguistic information, and might reflect distinct neurocognitive processes, such as reanalysis of the sentence structure versus pragmatic reanalysis. © 2014 Regel et al.
Regel, S., Meyer, L., & Gunter, T. C. (2014). Distinguishing neurocognitive processes reflected by P600 effects: Evidence from ERPs and neural oscillations. PLoS ONE, 9(5). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0096840