Journal article

Neural correlates of lexical stress processing in a foreign free‐stress language


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  • 26.12.2022
Published in:
  • Brain and Behavior. - Wiley. - 2022, vol. 13, no. 1, p. e2854
English Introduction
The paper examines the discrimination of lexical stress contrasts in a foreign language from a neural perspective. The aim of the study was to identify the areas associated with word stress processing (in comparison with vowel processing), when listeners of a fixed-stress language have to process stress in a foreign free-stress language.
We asked French-speaking participants to process stress and vowel contrasts in Spanish, a foreign language that the participants did not know. Participants performed a discrimination task on Spanish word pairs differing either with respect to word stress (penultimate or final stressed word) or with respect to the final vowel while fMRI data was acquired.
The contrast Stress > Vowel revealed an increased bilateral activation of regions shown to be associated with stress processing (i.e., supplementary motor area, insula, middle/superior temporal gyrus), as well as a stronger involvement of areas related to more domain-general cognitive control functions (i.e., bilateral inferior frontal gyrus), suggesting that processing stress contrasts was cognitively more demanding than processing vowel contrasts. The contrast Vowel > Stress showed an increased activation in regions typically associated with the default mode network (which is known for decreasing its activity during attentionally more demanding tasks), indicating again that processing vowel contrasts constituted an easier task than processing stress contrasts. These findings were further supported by the behavioral results showing lower accuracy and longer reaction times for discriminating stress contrasts than vowel contrasts.
When processing Spanish stress contrasts as compared to processing vowel contrasts, native listeners of French activated to a higher degree anterior networks including regions related to cognitive control. They also show a decrease in regions related to the default mode network. These findings, together with behavioral results reflect the higher cognitive demand for French-speaking listeners during stress processing as compared to vowel processing.
Faculté des sciences et de médecine
Médecine 3ème année
  • English
Pathology, clinical medicine
Open access status
Persistent URL

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