Vocabulary acquisition over a 1-week training program, an electrophysiological study

Vocabulary acquisition over a 1-week training program, an electrophysiological study


Neus Ramos-Escobar 1,2, Clément François 1,2,3, Matti Laine 4 and Antoni Rodriguez-Fornells 1,2,5

1 Department of Cognition, Development and Educational Psychology, Universitat de Barcelona, Spain.

2 Cognition and Brain Plasticity Unit, IDIBELL (Institut d’Investigació Biomèdica de Bellvitge), L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, Spain

3 Institut de Recerca Pediàtrica Hospital Sant Joan de Déu, Barcelona, Spain.

4 Department of Psychology, Abo Akademi University, Turku, Finland

5 Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies, ICREA, Barcelona, Spain


The ability to acquire a new vocabulary frequently occurs in our lives, not only when learning a new language but also when starting a new activity. The centro-parietal N400 component of the event-related brain potentials has been classically associated to semantic-conceptual processes. Nonetheless, recent ERP studies have provided evidence for a fronto-central N400 in novel word learning tasks. Here, we used the Ancient Farming Equipment Paradigm to examine the brain responses of 25 adult participants acquiring a new vocabulary (novel object picture non-word pairs) over five consecutive days. Three memory tasks (overt naming, covert naming and recognition tasks) were administered during each training session and a four months follow-up tested the maintenance of the word to picture associations. During the first and last training sessions EEG was recorded. Interestingly, both behavioural and ERP data showed evidence of learning with correctly learned associations eliciting a larger P2, FN400 and late the positive component during the last learning session than during the first. These results provide further evidence for the involvement of the FN400 component in the early stages of word learning.

Neus Ramos-Escobar, Clément François, Matti Laine, & Antoni Rodriguez-Fornells