Alpha and theta band dynamics related to sentential constraint and word expectancy

Joost Rommers* (Corresponding Author), Danielle S. Dickson, James J. S. Norton, Edward W. Wlotko, Kara D. Federmeier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Citations (Scopus)
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Despite strong evidence for prediction during language comprehension, the underlying mechanisms, and the extent to which they are specific to language, remain unclear. Re-analysing an event-related potentials study, we examined responses in the time-frequency domain to expected and unexpected (but plausible) words in strongly and weakly constraining sentences, and found results similar to those reported in nonverbal domains. Relative to expected words, unexpected words elicited an increase in the theta band (4–7 Hz) in strongly constraining contexts, suggesting the involvement of control processes to deal with the consequences of having a prediction disconfirmed. Prior to critical word onset, strongly constraining sentences exhibited a decrease in the alpha band (8–12 Hz) relative to weakly constraining sentences, suggesting that comprehenders can take advantage of predictive sentence contexts to prepare for the input. The results suggest that the brain recruits domain-general preparation and control mechanisms when making and assessing predictions during sentence comprehension.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)576-589
Number of pages14
JournalLanguage cognition and neuroscience
Issue number5
Early online date19 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by the NIH under Grant number AG026308 to K.D.F.; and by a James S. McDonnell Foundation Scholar Award to K.D.F.


  • prediction
  • language
  • sentence comprehension
  • pre-stimulus alpha
  • frontal theta


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