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Predicting the Brain Activation Pattern Associated With the Propositional Content of a Sentence: Modeling Neural Representations of Events and States

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journal contribution
posted on 11.06.2020 by Jing Wang, Vladimir Cherkassky, Marcel Just
Even though much has recently been learned about the neural representation of individual concepts and categories, neuroimaging research is only beginning to reveal how more complex thoughts, such as event and state descriptions, are neurally represented. We present a predictive computational theory of the neural representations of individual events and states as they are described in 240 sentences. Regression models were trained to determine the mapping between 42 neurally plausible semantic features (NPSFs) and thematic roles of the concepts of a proposition and the fMRI activation patterns of various cortical regions that process different types of information. Given a semantic characterization of the content of a sentence that is new to the model, the model can reliably predict the resulting neural signature, or, given an observed neural signature of a new sentence, the model can predict its semantic content. The models were also reliably generalizable across participants. This computational model provides an account of the brain representation of a complex yet fundamental unit of thought, namely, the conceptual content of a proposition. In addition to characterizing a sentence representation at the level of the semantic and thematic features of its component concepts, factor analysis was used to develop a higher level characterization of a sentence, specifying the general type of event representation that the sentence evokes (e.g., a social interaction versus a change of physical state) and the voxel locations most strongly associated with each of the factors


AFRL FA8650-13-C-7360


Publisher Statement

This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Wang, J., Cherkassky, V. L., & Just, M. A. (2017). Predicting the brain activation pattern associated with the propositional content of a sentence: Modeling neural representations of events and states. Human Brain Mapping, 38(10), 4865-4881. doi:10.1002/hbm.23692. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.