The neural correlates of referential communication: Taking advantage of sparse-sampling fMRI to study verbal communication with a real interaction partner.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Brain Cogn, Volume 154, p.105801 (2021)


Brain Mapping, Communication, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Pilot Projects, Speech, Theory of Mind


<p>This paper introduces an innovative functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) protocol to study real verbal interactions while limiting the impact of speech-related movement artefacts. This protocol is based on a sparse sampling acquisition technique and allowed participants to complete a referential communication task with a real interaction partner. During verbal interactions, speakers adjust their verbal productions depending on their interlocutors' knowledge of the referents being mentioned. These adjustments have been linked to theory of mind (ToM), the ability to infer other's mental states. We thus sought to determine if the brain regions supporting ToM would also be activated during a referential communication task in which participants have to present movie characters that vary in their likelihood of being known by their interlocutor. This pilot study establishes that the sparse sampling strategy is a viable option to study the neural correlates of referential communication while minimizing movement artefacts. In addition, the brain regions supporting ToM were recruited during the task, though specifically for the conditions where participants could adjust their verbal productions to the interlocutor's likely knowledge of the referent. This study therefore demonstrates the feasibility and relevance of a sparse-sampling approach to study verbal interactions with fMRI, including referential communication.</p>

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