Neurophysiological Correlates of Thematic and Functional Knowledge Activation during Object Conceptual Processing

Yannick WamainUniversité Lille Nord de France, F-59000 Lille, France
Ewa PluciennickaUniversité Lille Nord de France, F-59000 Lille, France
Solène KalénineUniversité Lille Nord de France, F-59000 Lille, France; CNRS, URM8529, F-59653 Villeneuve d'Ascq Cedex, France

Abstract

Behavioral studies suggest that manipulable artifact concepts are largely organized around action-based knowledge with thematic and functional relations being privileged ways to group objects together. Moreover, recent eye tracking studies have shown that thematic and functional knowledge are activated with different temporal dynamics during object conceptual processing. In order to assess the neurophysiological correlates of thematic and functional knowledge activation, we used a priming paradigm in which Event-Related Potentials were recorded during object identification. The neural response was analyzed as a function of the type of semantic relation shared by prime and target objects: Thematic [saw-wood], Specific Function [saw-axe] and General Function [saw-knife]. Results revealed graded priming effects on the N400 component that could be related to processing time course differences. Findings support the hypothesis of distinct cognitive and neurophysiological mechanisms underlying thematic and functional knowledge.

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