Minimalist Investigations in Linguistic Theory (Routledge Leading Linguists)

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Neural potentials have typically been analyzed through frequency, time-frequency, and wavelet representations Kaiser, Given these shortcomings, I would like to introduce the possibility of analysing a continuous signal as a linear combination of reoccurring waveforms. This is achieved by combining overcomplete representations with adaptive signal models. If the goal is to extract waveforms from a single continuous channel, then it follows that we should adopt a generative model which summates impulse responses, being a multiple input, single output MISO model.

Principe and Brockmeier , p. The major advantages of this over other models is that the phasic event analysis learns the reoccurring waveform shape and allows the pinpointing of the amplitude and timing of phasic events. The model consequently captures the transitory nature of neural events. Decomposition of a single local field potential LFP channel using the phasic event model.

The original LFP signal is on top. In the middle are the component decompositions. The learned impulse response of the waveform is shown to the left of each component.

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The most significant amplitude atoms timing, amplitude, and waveform index appear at the bottom as colored bars. Color intensity corresponds to amplitude from Principe and Brockmeier, , p. Although oscillations are likely not all that is needed to provide a solution to the problem of linguistic computation, they nevertheless appear to be a vital part of the answer. Aside from language-centered obstacles, comparative dynamic cognomics will also face the notable challenge of the variation in oscillation presence across species, with the reasons for much rhythmic variation still unknown.

For now, the Basic Label model satisfies the cognome-dynome operational level, but we would ultimately want to satisfy the connectome and other lower levels. As a result, the next section will expand on the bare electrophysiological details outlined above leading to the broadening of multi-disciplinary concerns and perspectives. To adequately explore the neurochemical and biophysical details of the Basic Label model, it is useful to introduce a distinction between minimal and maximal degrees of explanation:. Minimal degree of explanation MinDE : The use of brain dynamics to explain why the cognome performs the operations it does, and not some other imaginable operations.

Maximal degree of explanation MaxDE : The use of brain dynamics in addition to causally relatable accounts of neurochemistry and its underlying biophysics to explain why the cognome performs the operations it does, and not some other imaginable operations. Note that MinDE has minimal requirements, whereas MaxDE has no stipulated limits, embracing the full range and plurality of the natural sciences. Neuroimaging studies, for instance, do not even reach the level of MinDE, whereas a purely rhythmic approach to the dynome of the kind found in Theofanopoulou and Boeckx Forthcoming b satisfies MinDE without reaching the neurochemical and biophysical precision of MaxDE.

Kopell et al. For instance, Theofanopoulou and Boeckx Forthcoming b only refer in passing to basic interneuron classes, and their model lacks any serious neurobiological details. As Allen and Monyer , p. Mechanistic ventures beyond the dynome are, I think, in the proper spirit of Turing's other thesis regarding morphogenesis, which was concerned not just with a description of an organism's forms similar to the computational level of modern linguistics but also with a proto-evo-devo theory of the cellular mechanisms which give rise to such forms Turing, , see also Maini, As Kopell et al.

Contrary to much of Koch's ambitious work, the following section will argue that the divide between biophysics and computation is in fact incommensurable, and that a different biolinguistic strategy will be required to resolve the granularity mismatch problem. This synchronous activity further tends to be oscillatory in nature Liu et al.

Oscillations have also been linked to neurochemistry Muthukumaraswamy et al. Updating Caton's imagery, McCormick et al. At the most common level of investigation, time-locked frequency analysis can decompose an EEG signal and identify changes in oscillations. But the widespread use of non-invasive and high-temporal resolution MEG, and recent advances in its source localization power Wipf et al. Recent work has begun to deliver an increasingly precise account of how, for instance, different classes of GABAergic interneurons in the hippocampus coordinate activity giving rise to network oscillations Allen and Monyer, , strengthening dynome-connectome correspondences.

GABA B receptors also perform time integration of cell assemblies classically defined as a set of neurons exhibiting stronger within-group connectivity than with other connected neurons; Hebb, from the subsecond to second scale Deisz and Prince, , a vital function in computing conceptual and linguistic information representations. Going beyond this level of analysis will require mapping rhythms to the numerous interneuron classes, which are defined based on cell body location, expression of marker proteins, axonal arborization, and other properties Whittington and Traub, ; Klausberger et al.

Korotkova et al. PV interneurons and somatostatin-expressing SOM interneurons preferentially synapse, respectively, onto the cell bodies and proximal dendrites of pyramidal cells and the distal dendrites of pyramidal cells Royer et al. It should be noted, however, that PV and SOM expression is common to numerous hippocampal interneuron classes, and so further optogenetic work is needed in order to establish the role of individual interneuron classes in oscillation generation.

Fruitful prospects for such work can be found in recent advances in juxtacellular recordings, permitting the monitoring of a single interneuron in vivo. To take a relevant case, Lapray et al. Viewing cell assemblies as the fundamental unit of computation rather than single neurons can by now be justified in that assemblies can tolerate noise by not being redirected in their trajectory, unlike single or small clusters of neurons which would also be effected by spike transmission failures , intensifying the justification for placing such assemblies at the center of the Basic Label model.

Topics in electrophysiology should also direct the concerns of those investigating the brain dynamics of linguistic computation. Certain areas of recent research appear to be more commensurable with elementary computational operations than others. For instance, transfer of charges across membranes of all brain structures leads to a current giving rise to an extracellular field, which in turn influences the membranes. A topic of contemporary debate is whether this endogenous field with its spatiotemporal V e -fluctuations changes neuronal functions through ephaptic coupling see Jefferys, for an overview.

This process amounts to a feedback mechanism through which the neural structures producing a given field are in turn affected by them, yielding a self-generated cyclic loop. In terms of range, ephaptic coupling influences structures ranging from synapses to discrete neurons to neural networks. Following the above self-generated model, V e changes alter synaptic currents. In addition, ephaptic coupling of V m to electric fields influences spiking due to its effect on active cell conductances Anastassiou et al.

The explanatory force of ephaptic coupling becomes clearer with parallel plate whole-slice stimulation, which has shown that emergent properties of networks are more sensitive to electric fields than discrete neurons Deans et al. As noted by Anastassiou and Koch , the entrainment of spiking to field strengths as minimal as 0.

As with ephaptic coupling, I would additionally like to propose cross-frequency coupling CFC as a core component of computation, as discussed above. It has been suggested that this generic operation coordinates spatiotemporal neural dynamics Canolty and Knight, ; Lisman and Jensen, , resolving a long-standing problem over how neural activity is synchronized. With larger neuronal populations oscillating at lower frequencies and smaller populations doing so at higher frequencies, CFC would enable their synchronization. But while much is known about the biophysical substrates of individual frequency components, the cellular mechanisms behind frequency interactions —the origin of linguistic computation in the Basic Label model—remain opaque.

Initial research leading to such an account has already been mentioned: Recall Korotkova et al. Using laminar electrodes to measure activity in monkey primate visual cortex, Spaak et al. As Aru et al.

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At a more general level, the cognome must operate within certain fundamental constraints on neuronal dynamics, such as the free-energy principle following seminal insights from Friston, through which the homeostatic brain minimizes the dispersion entropy of interoceptic and exteroceptic states.

Studies of chaotic itinerancy Tsuda, , , many-body physics and thermodynamics Vitiello, may also prove indispensable in describing the high-dimensional state space of cortical activity implicated in computation see the essays collected in Ohira and Uzawa, for discussion. An emerging consensus regarding the validity of the communication-through-coherence CTC hypothesis lends further impetus to the claim that rhythms bring about linguistic computation Bastos et al.

CTC can be complemented with recent developments in the understanding of the functional role brain rhythms play, with assembly formation being the core operation at the connectome level necessary to establish the kinds of cross-modular representational structures seen in natural language Lopes-dos-Santos et al. The numerous roles attributed to gamma-band synchronization GBS are represented by the higher tier, while their implementation in neural circuits is represented by the lower tier from Bosman et al.

The role of GBS in visual feature integration Bosman et al. If linguistic computations are in fact responsible for this cross-modularity, then language can perhaps be more closely aligned to dominant descriptions of consciousness and working memory Dehaene et al. In addition, GBS has been shown to support certain low-level functions in the hippocampus which may be vital to particular cognitive functions attributed to this region, such as memory encoding and retrieval Bosman et al.

Along with the standard phase locking operation through which higher waves occur at stable phases in cycles of lower waves Belluscio et al.

Explorations in Maximizing Syntactic Minimization

This may in turn constrain the number of lexical items or features able to be transferred in a given phase. If this oscillatory mechanism is also responsible for syntactic computation, this would lend weight to the strong connection drawn in Murphy b between syntactic phases and episodic memory.

Roux and Uhlhaas make the related claim that oscillatory activity assures the maintenance of working memory information.

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This explanation is of precisely the kind of granularity linguists should seek to capture syntactic operations like labeling, which involves storing conceptual roots in memory. Schematic of the theta-gamma neural code. The ovals represent states of the same network during two gamma cycles. Active cells are in black and represent the cell assemblies which code for a particular item, i. Different assemblies are active in different cycles from Lisman and Jensen, , p. These operations are all conserved from early in mammalian evolution, with the above interplay between excitation and inhibition being found in crustaceans Nusbaum and Beenhakker, and major phyla dating back million years Katz and Harris-Warrick, Bosman et al.

Further, top-down neocortical processes implicated in particular higher cognitive faculties like working memory Buschman and Miller, and free-choice reach Pesaran et al. While I hope to have shown that distinct oscillatory phases segregate discrete units of information visual, olfactory, semantic, etc.

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Oscillatory phases may be the means through which different lexical features e. These remarks cover some basic computations, but what of their constraints? Consider Wurmbrand's Merge Condition, stated below:. This condition ensures that set-formation via concatenation is licensed only under Agree, requiring also feature valuation.

Leaving aside further details and the possibility that Merge applies freely, the scientist concerned with establishing linking hypotheses between linguistics and neuroscience is faced here with a number of challenges but also some surprising possibilities. When this occurs, feature valuation takes place and the derivation can converge.

If this process is barred in virtue of rhythmic coupling restrictions and the limits of assembly synchronization, feature valuation, and hence concatenation, does not take place. If the distribution of unvalued features, [ u F], also contributes to the demarcation of phases Narita, a , then the dynamics of feature valuation would likely align closely with the present Basic Label account of Transfer, since valuation, Agree and other copy-forming operations such as Internal Merge apply as a fundamental part of Transfer.

This leads to clear, causally-addressable empirical predictions, to be investigated in future research. As a secondary concern, I will assume that feature valuation along with feature inheritance and Agree are both cases of a more generalized Search operation, which forms relations between identical feature complexes Ohta et al. Kato et al. The Basic Label model and Kato et al. From here, the matter is purely empirical, but these subtleties in distinct cognome-dynome hypotheses are yet to be investigated and are potentially of substantial interest to dynamic cognomics.

We are now in a position to outline a concrete research program. The first phase of dynamic cognomics will involve the above ongoing research into translating or reconstructing the operations of syntax into oscillation terms. The second phase should center on translating the constraints of syntax, such as those concerning agreement, movement, and anti-locality. For instance, Richard's Distinctness Condition, prohibiting the presence of multiple lexical units of the same label within a single phase complement, may be the consequence of how many distinct rhythms it is possible to couple in specific actions Boeckx, These constraints may form the backdrop of what Narita a , p.

What is needed is consequently a re-conceptualization of language as not only a system of thought, planning and interpretation, but also a system of oscillatory and electrophysiological information synchronization. The computational constraints explored by Wurmbrand and others can direct inquiry into the possibilities of dynomic operations, although this process may require further elaboration of the nature of the role of oscillations in cognition.

Recent developments in systems neuroscience have identified large scale distributed brain networks, typically explored through fMRI and MEG Brookes et al. Data from fMRI suggests that the implication of a functionally specific set of neurons in any given computation is assisted by a backdrop of large-scale neural assembly inter-communication. These networks are composed of sub-networks with correlating and anti-correlating patterns, leading to a situation in which a single large-scale network may operate through overlapping but distinct neural sub-networks.

The central operations implicated by the Basic Label model of the cognome, dynome, and connectome, along with more general laws. As the cognome-dynome-connectome linking hypotheses expand, it is important not to ignore the fundamental role of the genome. Globularity may also have contributed, as some have suggested, to an increase in wiring efficiency across the brain Chklovskii et al.

It is of outstanding interest for biolinguistics and dynamic cognomics that functional links of this kind are beginning to be drawn between genes and their cellular consequences for the human cognitive phenotype. An evaluation of these observations can also be made alongside a consideration of what Piattelli-Palmarini and Uriagereka see as the optimizing role language has in building syntactic and phonological structures, which proceeds via minimal search and related principles of computational efficiency Larson, This would imply that the numerous centuries-long approaches to human-uniqueness, ranging from philosophy to medicine, have approached the matter from the wrong perspective.

Instead of asking what it is about humans which allows us to form complex systems of symbolic interpretation, we should instead ask what it is about other animals which prohibits them from doing so. Globularity may also have led to the expansion of the neo-cortex and the pulvinar, spurred on by the reduction of the large Neanderthal visual system Pearce et al. A literature review leads Theofanopoulou and Boeckx Forthcoming a , b to claim that the thalamus is the brain region which tunes the oscillations of other subcortical structures see also Boeckx, b.

Relatedly, due to the few protein differences between humans and chimpanzees, the individuating computational factors may be attributed to cis- and trans-regulatory genes Somel et al. Hominid-unique features which may have led to the higher mental faculties of humans include novel neuronal cell types and the duplication of developmental proteins such as SRGAP2, leading to unique dendritic spine density and form Geschwind and Rakic, Synaptic and dendritic maturation also occurs in humans for a considerably longer time than in non-humans Bianchi et al.

Summarizing these findings, it appears that the developed interneurons and dendritic spinal strength proposed by Geschwind and Rakic fortified long-distance assembly connections and, in turn, the mechanisms of ephaptic coupling, CFC and other neuronal processes operating within the confines of the CTC hypothesis necessary for the rhythmic interactions claimed above to be the source of computations like labeling and cyclic transfer.

Though many intervening neurochemical processes need to be accounted for and explained, it seems that such processes, along with novel V e -fluctuations, are the reason why we find the cyclic short-term memory storage capacities seen in labeling. The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. This work was supported by an Economic and Social Research Council scholarship National Center for Biotechnology Information , U.

Journal List Front Psychol v. Front Psychol. Published online Oct Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. This article was submitted to Language Sciences, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology. Received Jul 11; Accepted Sep The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author s or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice.

No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms. This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract Neural oscillations at distinct frequencies are increasingly being related to a number of basic and higher cognitive faculties. Keywords: neural oscillations, biolinguistics, syntax, dynome, theta, alpha, beta, gamma.

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Cartographic directions In Murphy a it was claimed that the ability to label linguistic structures with a categorical identity e. Evo-devo directions As the theory of evolution expands beyond the Modern Synthesis and into areas such as evolutionary-developmental evo-devo biology Carroll, ; Bolker, there is in turn more potential for space for linguists to find their place within biology. Rhythmic directions How much physiological detail is required to capture the operations of the language faculty?

Oscillations as functional units Recent debates about the origins of ERP component generation have led some Tass, ; Makeig et al. The basic label model of the cognome-dynome At the most general level of analysis, neural oscillations emerge from the tension between the brain's two most central principles: segregation of function and dynamic integration de Pasquale et al. Concatenation The central proposal of the model pursued here is that the interaction of brain rhythms yields linguistic computation.

Labeling Along with concatenation and transfer, there is also labeling. Formal considerations Introducing new formalisms will permit a clearer explication of dynamic cognomics. Some empirical consequences of dynamic cognomics Among many other forms of imaging and behavioral data, neuroimaging studies should be used as a guide for dynamic cognomic investigations. Open in a separate window. Figure 1. Biophysical directions To adequately explore the neurochemical and biophysical details of the Basic Label model, it is useful to introduce a distinction between minimal and maximal degrees of explanation: 1 a.

Figure 2. Figure 3. Globularity and cortico-centrism Recent developments in systems neuroscience have identified large scale distributed brain networks, typically explored through fMRI and MEG Brookes et al. Figure 4. Conflict of interest statement The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. References Adger D. A Syntax of Substance. Interneuron control of hippocampal oscillations. Typology reconsidered: two doctrines on the history of evolutionary biology.

EvoDevo as cognitive psychology. Theory 1 , 10— Ephaptic coupling to endogenous electric field activity: why bother?

Ephaptic coupling of cortical neurons. Untangling cross-frequency coupling in neuroscience. Memory, 2nd Edn. Abingdon: Psychology Press. Biolinguistics 6 , — Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Edited by Cedric Boeckx

In Chomsky , , PS grammars only construct monoclausal structures. Groat, H Kitahara, and R. Bidese, F. In this latter book, Chomsky traces aspects of the history of his approach to language, drawing connections to Descartes and the Port-Royal tradition. This mechanism allows people to combine words into infinite strings. Glot International 6 , 94—96 Google Scholar.

Synaptic mechanisms of synchronized gamma oscillations in inhibitory interneuron networks. Frequency-based segregation of syntactic and semantic unification during online sentence level language comprehension. Canonical microcircuits for predictive coding. Neuron 76 , — Communication through coherence with inter-areal delays. Basic linguistic composition recruits the left anterior temporal lobe and left angular gyrus during both listening and reading. Cortex 23 , — FOXP2, retinoic acid, and language: a promising direction.

Universal grammar and biological variation: an evo-devo agenda for comparative biolinguistics. Theory 9 , — Possible functional links among brain- and skull-related genes selected in modern humans. Uber das elektrenephalogramm des menschen. Archiv Psychiatr. Morphology and behaviour: functional links in development and evolution. B , — Oxford: Oxford University Press; , — Synaptic modifications in cultured hippocampal neurons: dependence on spike timing, synaptic strength, and postsynaptic cell type.

Synaptogenesis and development of pyramidal neuron dendritic morphology in the chimpanzee neocortex resembles humans. Merge: biolinguistic considerations.