Hemispheric asymmetries in "expert" processing of semantic relationships during reading

AbstractHow does individual-level variation in experience and knowledge influence neural mechanisms recruited during real-time language comprehension? We used event-related brain potentials (ERPs) combined with lateralized visual presentations of critical sentence-final words to examine asymmetries in hemispheric processing as individuals who varied in their knowledge of the fictional world of Harry Potter (HP) read sentences about general topics / HP. HP sentence endings were either contextually supported, unrelated anomalies, or semantically related anomalies. Amongst HP “experts,” both hemispheres were sensitive to contextual support, but only the right hemisphere (RH) was sensitive to the related anomaly manipulation. The exact pattern of results depended on the relationship (categorical vs event). Our findings are in line with accounts on which the left hemisphere (LH) activates narrow/specific semantic contents and the RH activates a broader range. We tentatively hypothesize that content experts may exploit these hemispheric differences in scope of activation.

Return to previous page