Alona Fyshe - Finding Language (and Language Learning) in the Brain
From Katie Gentilello on August 31st, 2018
Understanding a native language is near effortless for fluent adults. But learning a new language takes dedication and hard word. In this talk, I will describe an experiment during which adult participants learned a new (artificial) language through a reinforcement learning paradigm while we collected EEG (Electroencephalography) data. We found that 1) we could detect a reward positivity (an EEG signal correlated with a participant receiving positive feedback) when participants correctly identified a symbol's meaning, and 2) the reward positivity diminishes for subsequent correct trials. Using a machine learning approach, we found that 3) we could detect neural correlates of word meaning as the mapping from native to new language is learned; and 4) the localization of the neural representations is heavily distributed throughout the brain. Together this is evidence that learning can be detected in the brain using EEG, and that the contents of a newly learned concept can be detected.