In yet another one of my recent publications, here is a book chapter that’s been awaiting publication for many years. My paper with my dear departed friend, Martin Paczynski, “The neurophysiology of event processing in language and visual events” is now finally published in the Oxford Handbook of Event Structure.
Our chapter gives an overview of research on the understanding of events from the perspective of cognitive neuroscience, particularly research using EEG. We actually wanted the original paper to be titled “Events electrified” but the book collection wanted less punchy titles. Our focus is on the N400 and P600 ERP effects, as they manifest in both language about events and in the perception of visual events themselves.
“Events are a fundamental part of human experience. All actions that we undertake, discuss, and view are embedded within the understanding of events and their structure. With the increasing complexity of neuroimaging over the past several decades, we have been able for the first time to examine how this tacit knowledge is processed and stored in people’s minds and brains. Among the techniques used to study the brain, electroencephalography (EEG) offers one of the few ways in which we can directly study information processed by the brain. Unlike functional imaging, whether PET or fMRI, which rely on metabolic consequences of neural activity, the EEG signal is generated by post-synaptic potentials in pyramidal cells which make up approximately 80% of neurons within the cerebral cortex. As such, EEG offers a temporal resolution measured in milliseconds, rather than seconds, making it well suited for exploring the rapid nature of language processing. Though there are numerous ways in which the EEG signal can be analyzed, in the current chapter we will focus our attention on the most common measure: event-related potentials (ERPs), the portion of the EEG signal time-locked to an event of interest, such as a word, image, or the start of a video clip.”
Cohn, Neil and Martin Paczynski. 2019. The neurophysiology of event processing in language and visual events. In Truswell, Robert (Ed.). Handbook of event structure. (pp. 624-637). Oxford: Oxford University Press.