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Title: Auditory and visual sequence learning in humans and macaques
Author: Milne, Alice E.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7425 2526
Awarding Body: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2017
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Over the last 20 years there have been dramatic advancements in our understanding of language; particularly regarding the ontogeny, phylogeny and neurobiology of syntactic abilities. Yet, how these language processes evolved remains unclear. The ability to extract information about the regularities present in sequentially presented stimuli has been related to both the acquisition and use of natural syntax. As a result, structured sequence learning is considered to be one of the general cognitive abilities from which language could have evolved. If sequence learning does represent an early precursor to human syntactic processing, there should be evidence of comparable sequence learning abilities in other primates with whom humans share a common ancestor. To this end, this thesis explores the sequence learning abilities of humans, and their evolutionary relatives, the macaque. Artificial grammars (AG) were used to create sequences that emulate some of the order-based relationships found between words in a sentence. The first study used a nonadjacent AG where the first syllable in a triplet is predicted the third syllable. Electroencephalography (EEG) was used to show that the macaque brain potentials elicited by a violation to the nonadjacent relationships were more similar to those previously found in infants, than adults tested on the same paradigm. Together the results indicated that both infants and macaques extracted the sequencing relationships more automatically than adults who have already acquired language. The subsequent studies tested how humans and macaques respond to identically structured sequences of either auditor)’ or visual stimuli. Behavioural results showed that sequence learning in both humans and macaques occurs in a very similar manner across the modalities. Subsequent imaging work also found correspondences across the two species, finding that similar frontal and parietal regions were associate with both auditory’ and visual sequence learning. Although, results in the macaque are preliminary and presented as a case study. Together, the studies provide evidence that human sequencing abilities stem from an evolutionary’ conserved capacity to extract regularities from sequentially presented stimuli and that this process is similarly represented in both humans and macaques.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available