Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Gerry Altmann, Eiling Yee, Whit Tabor, Nicole Landi

Field of Study

Psychological Sciences


Master of Science

Open Access

Open Access


In our everyday conversations we talk about how things or people change. Instantiations of objects in their different states need to be maintained during language comprehension for future selection of the relevant state, as in The chef will chop the onion. And then/but first, she will weigh the onion. Previous fMRI studies (Solomon et al, 2015) demonstrated that selecting between multiple competing representations of the same object token, such as the intact and the chopped onion, elicits increased activation in the brain area associated with conflict resolution -- left pVLPFC. When there is no cue to the earlier introduced object, as in The chef will chop/smell the onion. And then, she will weigh another onion, no retrieval cost is observed because none of the states is relevant. However, due to the poor temporal resolution of fMRI, it is difficult to make assumptions about the dynamics of this effect and where exactly in the sentence it occurs. To track this competition effect over time, dEEG was recorded as participants (N=23) read sentences presented to them word by word. Critical sentences were organized in a two-by-two design with degree of change and token reference being the two factors. A time-frequency analysis of EEG, synchronized from the onset of the final determiner phrase in the second sentence, revealed a significant increase in alpha (8-12 Hz) in sentences describing state change and referring back to the same token. This finding is consistent with literature relating alpha oscillations to cortical inhibitory processing and selection mechanisms.

Major Advisor

Gerry Altmann