Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Artificial grammar learning in primates : behaviour and neuroimaging
Author: Wilson, Benjamin
ISNI:       0000 0004 5353 7506
Awarding Body: University of Newcastle Upon Tyne
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2014
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Access from Institution:
Neuroimaging studies have shown that natural language processes engage left hemisphere perisylvian brain regions. Artificial Grammars (AG), which are designed to emulate aspects of language syntactic structure, recruit comparable brain areas. Nonhuman animals have been shown to learn a range of different AGs. However, no data is currently available regarding the brain areas that support these processes. In this thesis, I combined behavioural artificial grammar learning (AGL) and fMRI experiments to generate insights regarding language evolution, and as a first step to developing animal model systems for aspects of language processing. These experiments provide novel evidence that nonhuman primates are able to learn a non-deterministic AG, designed to emulate some of the variability of the structure of sentences in natural language, and demonstrated notable correspondences between the brain regions involved in macaque and human AGL. I developed a quantitative method to compare AGL abilities across species and studies, and a novel eye-tracking technique with which to collect objective behavioural data. Using this technique, and a refined version of a traditional video-coding paradigm, I demonstrated that Rhesus macaques notice violations of the AG structure and that these results could not be explained by reliance on simple cues. Common marmosets also showed evidence of AGL however, these results may have been driven by simple learning strategies. Comparative fMRI experiments showed that, in humans, violations of the AG activated a number of perisylvian brain regions associated with language processing, including the ventral frontal cortex (vFC), temporal and temporo-parietal regions, although not Broca’s area (BA44/45). In Rhesus macaques, comparable patterns of activation were seen in the ventral frontal cortex and temporo-parietal regions. Additional activation in BA44/45 in macaques provides interesting insights into the evolution of this region. These experiments provide novel evidence regarding the AGL capabilities of nonhuman primates, and the brain areas that support them, suggesting that some language related functions may represent generic, rather than language specific processes. Therefore, some of the brain regions involved in AGL in both species might share a common evolutionary heritage, and therefore Rhesus macaques might represent a valuable animal model system for aspects of language processing.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available