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Keywords:

  • beta activity;
  • EEG ;
  • ERP ;
  • ERSP ;
  • lexical processing

Abstract

Recent human behavioral studies have shown semantic and/or lexical processing for stimuli presented below the auditory perception threshold. Here, we investigated electroencephalographic responses to words, pseudo-words and complex sounds, in conditions where phonological and lexical categorizations were behaviorally successful (categorized stimuli) or unsuccessful (uncategorized stimuli). Data showed a greater decrease in low-beta power at left-hemisphere temporal electrodes for categorized non-lexical sounds (complex sounds and pseudo-words) than for categorized lexical sounds (words), consistent with the signature of a failure in lexical access. Similar differences between lexical and non-lexical sounds were observed for uncategorized stimuli, although these stimuli did not yield evoked potentials or theta activity. The results of the present study suggest that behaviorally uncategorized stimuli were processed at the lexical level, and provide evidence of the neural bases of the results observed in previous behavioral studies investigating auditory perception in the absence of stimulus awareness.