Keynote speakers


Falk Huettig (Max Planck)

Monday, June 4th, 16.30

The culturally co-opted mind and brain

Reading as a recent cultural invention has not been shaped by evolutionary processes and thus must make use of cognitive systems and brain networks which are either domain-general or have evolved for other purposes. Research on the effect of literacy thus is a powerful tool to investigate how cultural inventions impact on cognition and brain functioning. During my talk, will draw on evidence from both behavioural experiments and neurobiological studies. In the first half of the talk, I will present the results of a series of visual world eye-tracking studies in which we found that illiterates, less proficient young readers, and adults with dyslexia show similar delays in language-mediated anticipatory eye movements. I will discuss potential primary influences of reading that may underlie these effects of literacy on ‘speech prediction’. In the second part of the talk, I will present the results of a longitudinal study with completely illiterate participants in India, in which we measured brain responses to speech, text, and other categories of visual stimuli with fMRI (as well as resting state activity and structural brain differences) before and after a group of illiterate participants in India completed a literacy training program in which they learned to read and write Devanagari script. A literate and an illiterate no-training control group were matched to the training group in terms of socioeconomic background and were recruited from the same societal community in two villages of a rural area near Lucknow, India. This design permitted investigating effects of literacy cross-sectionally across groups before training (N=86) as well as longitudinally (training group N=25). Our findings crucially complement current neurobiological concepts of normal and impaired literacy acquisition and highlight the need for the inclusion of diverse participant populations in psychological and neurobiological research.



Sarah Bernolet (Universiteit Antwerpen)

Tuesday, June 5th, 13.50

The interplay of implicit and explicit memory effects in sentence production: Evidence from syntactic priming within and between languages

In the last 30 years, research using syntactic priming has provided valuable insights in the process of sentence production and comprehension, and the different memory representations that are involved. The use of cross-linguistic syntactic priming has broadened the range of questions that could be answered, but it also raised additional questions and concerns. Between-language priming appears to be modulated by second-language proficiency, and response tendencies may be more heavily influenced by participants’ strategies and memory limitations during L2 syntactic production than during production in the L1. In order to be able to tell how much between-language priming data can tell us about the syntactic representations that are accessed during L2 production, we need an explicit theory on the development of syntactic representations during L2 learning. Recently, Rob Hartsuiker and I put forward a theoretical account of late second language syntactic acquisition. We assume that structural priming effects in L2 (and between L1 and L2) depend on the structure of this developing network but also on explicit memory processes, and we speculate that these memory processes might aid the formation of new representations. In this talk, I will present the account and its predictions and focus on the way in which explicit memory processes might influence priming results in L2, but also in L1.