By Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, [RxPG] Michael Spivey et al. explore the use of hand movements, recorded as a continuous response, to track the temporal dynamics of cognitive language processing.
A classic, modular theory of language processing assumes that neural subsystems responsible for perception and cognition each wait until a stable, unique representation has been computed before passing that information to the next stage. An alternative model posits a continuous uptake of sensory input and then dynamic competition between simultaneously active representations.
Spivey et al. recorded the streaming (x, y) coordinates of a cursor directed by a hand-controlled computer mouse during spoken language tasks. These data were reported to be of high temporal resolution and provided smooth curves even within individual trials, so that central tendencies of group data were fairly represented.
The shapes of these trajectories gave a concrete, two-dimensional visualization of the dynamics involved in language processing, the authors say, and the results add further evidence for the continuous-uptake cognitive model.