Similar neural correlates for language and sequential learning: Evidence from event-related brain potentials

Morten H. Christiansen, Christopher M. Conway, Luca Onnis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


We used event-related potentials (ERPs) to investigate the time course and distribution of brain activity while adults performed (1) a sequential learning task involving complex structured sequences and (2) a language processing task. The same positive ERP deflection, the P600 effect, typically linked to difficult or ungrammatical syntactic processing, was found for structural incongruencies in both sequential learning as well as natural language and with similar topographical distributions. Additionally, a left anterior negativity (LAN) was observed for language but not for sequential learning. These results are interpreted as an indication that the P600 provides an index of violations and the cost of integration of expectations for upcoming material when processing complex sequential structure. We conclude that the same neural mechanisms may be recruited for both syntactic processing of linguistic stimuli and sequential learning of structured sequence patterns more generally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-256
Number of pages26
JournalLanguage and Cognitive Processes
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Event-related potentials (ERPs)
  • Implicit learning
  • Language processing
  • P600
  • Prediction
  • Sequential learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Similar neural correlates for language and sequential learning: Evidence from event-related brain potentials'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this