Long-range reading regressions are accompanied by a P600-like brain potential: Evidence from the co-registration of ERPs and eye movements

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Olaf Dimigen ; Werner Sommer ; Reinhold Kliegl (2007)

About 15% of reading saccades move the eyes backwards in the text. To study the neurophysiological correlates of such regressions, we co-registered gaze position and ERPs of 54 subjects during natural, left-to-right reading. Sentences were grammatically diverse but contained no syntactic violations or local ambiguities. Accompanying the onset of long-range regressions, we observed a late centroparietal positivity, closely resembling the P600 component commonly observed for syntactic violations and garden-path sentences in traditional ERP experiments. This suggests that the P600 indexes individual comprehension difficulty or parsing problems even in the absence of syntactic ambiguity. Co-registration of eye movements and ERPs may help to differentiate between regressions caused by oculomotor overshoot, word identification failures, and syntactic parsing problems.
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