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Article

They played with the trade: MEG investigation of the processing of past tense verbs and their phonological twins

Neuropsychologia. 2012. Vol. 50. No. 14. P. 3713-3720.
Holland R., Brindley L., Shtyrov Y., Pulvermuller F., Patterson K.

especially impaired on regular past-tense forms like played, whether the task requires production, comprehension or even the judgement that "play" and "played" sound different. Within a dual-mechanism account of inflectional morphology, these deficits reflect disruption to the rule-based process that adds (or strips) the suffix -ed to regular verb stems; but the fact that the patients are also impaired at detecting the difference between word pairs like "tray" and "trade" (the latter being a phonological but not a morphological twin to "played") suggests an important role for phonological characteristics of the regular past tense. The present study examined MEG brain responses in healthy participants evoked by spoken regular past-tense forms and phonological twin words (plus twin pseudowords and a non-speech control) presented in a passive oddball paradigm. Deviant forms (played, trade, kwade/kwayed) relative to their standards (play, tray, kway) elicited a pronounced neuromagnetic response at approximately 130 ms after the onset of the affix; this response was maximal at sensors over temporal areas of both hemispheres but stronger on the left, especially for played and kwayed. Relative to the same standards, a different set of deviants ending in /t/--plate, trait and kwate--produced stronger difference responses especially over the right hemisphere. Results are discussed with regard to dual- and single-mechanism theories of past tense processing and the need to consider neurobiological evidence in attempts to understand inflectional morphology.