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NINAME — Result In Brief

Project ID: 625184
Funded under: FP7-PEOPLE
Country: Spain

The influence of language on memory and the emergence of conceptual knowledge

As far back as 1882, Gottlob Frege offered a philosophical account of language as symbols that allow conceptual knowledge to emerge from individual memories. Over a century later, modern technology has enabled researchers to investigate the influence of language on life experience recall and the emergence of conceptual knowledge active in the long-term memory network.
The influence of language on memory and the emergence of conceptual knowledge
Life experiences are transformed into episodic memory via the hippocampal region, which in interplay with the ventromedial prefrontal cortex elicits the emergence of conceptual knowledge. The project NINAME (Brain dynamics and patterns of activity signature of inner speech during recall and conceptual emergence in bilinguals) was dedicated to developing an integrated view of the human brain to represent language-memory interdependency. More specifically, the work targeted an enhanced understanding of language-specific processes in interplay with the hippocampo-ventromedial-prefrontal cortex patterns of activity and dynamics.

To experimentally assess the influence of narrative processes on the hippocampo-cortical system, NINAME conducted a language manipulation study of fluent bilinguals – 15 Basque-Spanish speakers. The team predicted that recall in the maternal language (L1) has a specific signature in the network, supposedly as a result of self-relatedness to the language. To test this, they worked to: construct the dynamics of the life-events according to the language of event construction; understand the importance of the realness and selfness aspect of the constructed events; and investigate the inner speech of life-events in L1 compared to the inner speech of life events in a second language (L2). The last point involved use of a multimodal functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) approach.

During fMRI acquisition, participants were asked to construct four types of events in each language: past life events, future life events, dreamed events and fictitious events. The experiment also included a standard control task – object viewing description.

Preliminary findings point to narrative processes having important influence on the episodic memory system during event construction. That is, language affection affects the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and the precuneus, with enhanced activation for L1 inner speech. Furthermore, differences related to the realness of the events in interaction with the used language would touch the temporo-parietal junction and the parahippocampal region.

Project work has provided insight into the role of inner speech in long-term memory and the emergence of conceptual knowledge in the related network. The results have implications for the clinical practice of psychopathology as well as the design of novel educational plans for general populations and bilinguals in particular.

Related information


Language, memory, conceptual knowledge, inner speech, NINAME, narrative process, bilingual
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