Brain Detects Grammar Errors Even When Unaware

By  , PTI
May 15, 2013

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Brain Detects Grammar Errors Even When Unaware

A panel of neuroscientists at the University of Oregon in US have found the scientific evidence on the how people figure out and process grammatical mistakes with no awareness of doing so.

Brain activity of the study participants (native-English speaking people of age group 18 to 30) was recorded using electroencephalography, from which researchers focused on a signal known as the Event-Related Potential (ERP). The non-invasive technique captured changes in brain electrical activity during an event. During the observation, events were short sentences presented visually one word at a time.

They subjects were given 280 experimental sentences, including some that were syntactically (grammatically) correct. A 50 millisecond audio tone was also played at some point in each sentence. A tone appeared before or after a grammatical faux pas was presented. The auditory distraction also appeared in grammatically correct sentences.

The grammatical violations were fully visible to participants, but because they had to complete this extra task, they were often not consciously aware of the violations. The subjects detected 89 per cent of the errors when tones appeared after grammatical errors. Even when the participants did not notice these errors, their brains responded to them, generating an early negative ERP response.

The study was published in the Journal of Neuroscience.



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