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N400 amplitude does not recover from disappearance after repetitions despite reinitiated semantic integration difficulty

Huang, Yunlonga; Jiang, Minghua; Guo, Qianb; Yang, Fan-Pei G.c

doi: 10.1097/WNR.0000000000001108

It remains an open question whether the amplitude of N400 reflects combinatory postlexical semantic integration processing. To examine the issue, we repeatedly presented strictly simplified, N400-eliciting three-word structures for seven times, mixed with their plausible counterparts, followed immediately by a much more enriched and informative sentence containing two keywords of the incongruous structure, for the purpose of reinitiating semantic integration processing. Event-related potentials were recorded and compared at the first, fourth, seventh, and eighth time. It was found that multiple repetitions attenuated the N400 effect to almost nonexistent and that the follow-up semantic integration reinitiating sentence did not recover N400 amplitude. The results suggest that combinatory postlexical semantic integration does not significantly modulate N400 amplitude, and provide evidence for noncombinatory processes underlying N400 such as automatic spreading activation and expectancy/prediction.

aDepartment of Chinese Language and Literature, School of Humanities, Center for Psychology and Cognitive Science

bDepartment of Foreign Languages and Literatures, School of Humanities, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China

cDepartment of Foreign Languages and Literature, Lab for Language and Cognitive Neurology, Center for Cognition and Mind Sciences, National Tsing Hua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan

Correspondence to Minghu Jiang, PhD, Department of Chinese Language and Literature, School of Humanities, Center for Psychology and Cognitive Science, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China Tel: +86 106 278 3657; fax: +86 106 278 5736; e-mail:

Received July 6, 2018

Accepted July 17, 2018

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