EEG references and ERP components: Is there really a new ERP component that is specific for reading Chinese?

EEG references and ERP components: Is there really a new ERP component that is specific for reading Chinese?

First Author: --
Additional authors/chairs: 
Sarah Rometsch; Jing Zhao; Pei Zhao; Su Li
Keywords: ERP, Orthography, Cross-linguistic, Logographic writing systems
Abstract / Summary: 

The visual N1 (N170) ERP component with its occipito-temporally negative and fronto-centrally positive distribution is sensitive to orthographic familiarity. Recently, a centro-parietal N200 component (mastoid reference) with a pronounced repetition effect was reported to be specific for processing Chinese logographic characters. Given functional similarities, and similarities in polarity and latency but differences in effect location and EEG reference, the relation between the well-established N1 and the new N200 effect remains unclear. Moreover, the specificity of this effect for Chinese remains to be demonstrated in a direct comparison with alphabetic languages. We thus collected 128-channel EEG data from 18 native Chinese readers in Beijing and from 18 native German readers in Zurich during a script decision experiment. Chinese words were presented among Korean control stimuli, German words among Armenian control stimuli. Half of the stimuli were repeated immediately. Data analysis focused on the early and late N1 (covering the N200 range). Results revealed pronounced repetition effects in the late N1 irrespective of stimulus type or language background (p<0.001) with largest effects near the mastoid electrodes. This main effect of repetition was further modulated by familiarity and language (p<0.05), reflecting a larger repetition effect for Chinese compared to Korean stimuli in Chinese readers, and similar repetition effects for German and Armenian stimuli in German readers. The results indicate that previously reported N200 effects at centro-parietal electrodes reflect changes in the electric fields near the mastoids, as revealed by the average reference. Repetition effects in the late N1 are not specific for reading Chinese, as they occurred for all visual stimuli. However, as these effects were more pronounced in Chinese, they seem to reflect some important aspects of visual word processing in Chinese that warrant further investigation.