Neurocognitive Correlates of Statistical Learning of Orthographic–Semantic Connections in Chinese Adult Learners

Xiuhong Tong1 • Yi Wang2 • Shelley Xiuli Tong 3

1 Department of Psychology, The Education University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China

2 Institute of Psychological Sciences, Hangzhou Normal University, Hangzhou 310000, China

3 Human Communication, Development, and Information Sciences, Faculty of Education, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China


We examined the neural correlates of the statistical learning of orthographic–semantic connections in Chinese adult learners. Visual event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded while participants were exposed to a sequence of artificial logographic characters containing semantic radicals carrying low, moderate, or high levels of semantic consistency. The behavioral results showed that the mean accuracy of participants’ recognition of previously exposed characters was 63.1% that was significantly above chance level (50%), indicating the statistical learning of the regularities of semantic radicals. The ERP data revealed a temporal sequence of the neural process of statistical learning of orthographic-semantic connections, and different brain indexes were found to be associated with this processing, i.e., a clear N170–P200–N400 pattern. For N170, the larger negative amplitudes were evoked by the high and moderate consistency than the low consistency. For P200, the mean amplitudes elicited by the moderate and low consistency were larger than the high consistency. In contrast, a larger N400 amplitude was observed in the low than moderate and high consistency; and more negative amplitude was elicited by the moderate than high consistency. We propose that the initial potential shifts (N170 and P200) may reflect orthographic or graphic form identification, while the later component (N400) may be associated with semantic information analysis.


Orthography–semantic connection; Statistical learning; N170; P200; N400


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