Event-related brain potentials evoked by verbs and nouns in a primed lexical decision task

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Abstract

We investigated whether verbs and nouns evoke comparable behavioral and N400 effects in a primed lexical decision task. Twenty-nine students were tested, 13 in a pilot study in which only response times and error rates were collected and 16 in a study in which ERPs were recorded from 124 scalp electrodes. Stimuli were noun–noun and verb–verb pairs with the targets bearing either a strong, a moderate, or no semantic association to the prime or being a pseudoword. Behavioral data revealed comparable priming effects for both word categories. These proved to be independent from the SOA (250 and 800 ms) and they followed the well-known pattern of decreasing response times and error rates with increasing relatedness between target and prime. ERPs revealed pronounced N400 effects for both word categories with a larger amplitude for noun than for verb pairs. A systematic analysis of topographic differences between noun- and verb-evoked ERPs and N400 effects, respectively, gave no convincing support to the hypothesis that the two word categories activate distinct neuronal networks.

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