Dr Jenni Rodd is Keynote Speaker at Workshop on fMRI and Language Processing


Dr Jenni Rodd will be giving a keynote talk entitled “What can (and cannot) be learned from fMRI: lessons from 15 years of research on lexical ambiguity” at a workshop on “fMRI and language processing: State of the art and future directions” at the University of Reading.

The workshop will take place on 13th December at Palmer 1.09, Whiteknights Campus, University of Reading, Reading, UK, RG6 6AL.

Further details about the workshop can be found here:


Talk by Jenni Rodd on Understanding Word Meanings


This afternoon (7th December 2017) at 4pm Jenni Rodd will be giving a talk entitled ‘How do we understand the meanings of words?’ as part of the Centre for Educational Neuroscience Research seminar series at Birkbeck University.

These seminars are held in Room 534 in Birkbeck Main Building (Malet Street) and are open to the public.

Further information can be found here:

Jenni Rodd is Looking to Recruit PhD Students for October 2018 Entry

Some current members of The Word Lab: Jenni Rodd, Rachael Hulme, Eva Poort, Hannah Betts, and Becky Gilbert

Interested in joining The Word Lab? Dr Jenni Rodd is looking to recruit PhD students to work on language comprehension/learning for October 2018 entry.

Funding is available through competitive ESRC Studentships, application for which is now open:

The deadline for preliminary applications for funding through this scheme is TUESDAY 9 JANUARY 2018 at 4.00pm (GMT).

Potential applicants are encouraged to get in touch: j.rodd(at)

New Paper in Press at Cortex


Glyn Hallam and colleagues have a new paper in press at Cortex, on which Jenni Rodd is a co-author. The details of the article can be found below:


Task-based and resting-state fMRI reveal compensatory network changes following damage to left inferior frontal gyrus


Glyn P. Hallam, Hannah E. Thompson, Mark Hymers, Rebecca E. Millman, Jennifer M. Rodd, Matthew A. Lambon Ralph, Jonathan Smallwood, and Elizabeth Jefferies


Damage to left inferior prefrontal cortex in stroke aphasia is associated with semantic deficits reflecting poor control over conceptual retrieval, as opposed to loss of knowledge. However, little is known about how functional recruitment within the semantic network changes in patients with executive-semantic deficits. The current study acquired fMRI data from 14 patients with semantic aphasia, who had difficulty with flexible semantic retrieval following left prefrontal damage, and 16 healthy age-matched controls, allowing us to examine activation and connectivity in the semantic network. We examined neural activity while participants listened to spoken sentences that varied in their levels of lexical ambiguity and during rest. We found group differences in two regions thought to be good candidates for functional compensation: ventral anterior temporal lobe (vATL), which is strongly implicated in comprehension, and posterior middle temporal gyrus (pMTG), which is hypothesized to work together with left inferior prefrontal cortex to support controlled aspects of semantic retrieval. The patients recruited both of these sites more than controls in response to meaningful sentences. Subsequent analysis identified that, in control participants, the recruitment of pMTG to ambiguous sentences was inversely related to functional coupling between pMTG and anterior superior temporal gyrus (aSTG) at rest, while the patients showed the opposite pattern. Moreover, stronger connectivity between pMTG and aSTG in patients was associated with better performance on a test of verbal semantic association, suggesting that this temporal lobe connection supports comprehension in the face of damage to left inferior prefrontal cortex. These results characterize network changes in patients with executive-semantic deficits and converge with studies of healthy participants in providing evidence for a distributed system underpinning semantic control that includes pMTG in addition to left inferior prefrontal cortex.

Article Approved for Entry to the Preregistration Challenge


Eva Poort’s preregistered article entitled ‘The cognate facilitation effect in bilingual lexical decision is influenced by task demands’ has been approved by the Centre for Open Science for entry into the Preregistration Challenge (Experiment 2 of the paper was preregistered through the Open Science Framework). Eva is eligible to win a $1000 award in the next awards round on January 1, 2018.

Eva was recently interviewed about her first experience of preregistration, you can read the interview in full here: The “Preregistration Challenge” – Interview with Eva Poort

New Paper in Cognitive Psychology – Accent Modulates Access to Word Meaning


Zhenguang (Garry) Cai and other members of the Word Lab have a new paper in the journal Cognitive Psychology, the details of which can be found below:

Title: Accent modulates access to word meaning: Evidence for a speaker-model account of spoken word recognition

Authors: Zhenguang G. Cai, Rebecca A. Gilbert, Matthew H. Davis, M. Gareth Gaskell, Lauren Farrar, Sarah Adler, and Jennifer M. Rodd.


Speech carries accent information relevant to determining the speaker’s linguistic and social background. A series of web-based experiments demonstrate that accent cues can modulate access to word meaning. In Experiments 1–3, British participants were more likely to retrieve the American dominant meaning (e.g., hat meaning of “bonnet”) in a word association task if they heard the words in an American than a British accent. In addition, results from a speeded semantic decision task (Experiment 4) and sentence comprehension task (Experiment 5) confirm that accent modulates on-line meaning retrieval such that comprehension of ambiguous words is easier when the relevant word meaning is dominant in the speaker’s dialect. Critically, neutral-accent speech items, created by morphing British- and American-accented recordings, were interpreted in a similar way to accented words when embedded in a context of accented words (Experiment 2). This finding indicates that listeners do not use accent to guide meaning retrieval on a word-by-word basis; instead they use accent information to determine the dialectic identity of a speaker and then use their experience of that dialect to guide meaning access for all words spoken by that person. These results motivate a speaker-model account of spoken word recognition in which comprehenders determine key characteristics of their interlocutor and use this knowledge to guide word meaning access.

New Word Lab Paper in Acta Psychologica


Eva Poort and Jenni Rodd have a new paper published in Acta Psychologica, the details of which can be found below:

Title: “The cognate facilitation effect in bilingual lexical decision is influenced by stimulus list composition”

Authors: Eva D. Poort and Jennifer M. Rodd


Cognates share their form and meaning across languages: “winter” in English means the same as “winter” in Dutch. Research has shown that bilinguals process cognates more quickly than words that exist in one language only (e.g. “ant” in English). This finding is taken as strong evidence for the claim that bilinguals have one integrated lexicon and that lexical access is language non-selective. Two English lexical decision experiments with Dutch–English bilinguals investigated whether the cognate facilitation effect is influenced by stimulus list composition. In Experiment 1, the ‘standard’ version, which included only cognates, English control words and regular non-words, showed significant cognate facilitation (31 ms). In contrast, the ‘mixed’ version, which also included interlingual homographs, pseudohomophones (instead of regular non-words) and Dutch-only words, showed a significantly different profile: a non-significant disadvantage for the cognates (8 ms). Experiment 2 examined the specific impact of these three additional stimuli types and found that only the inclusion of Dutch words significantly reduced the cognate facilitation effect. Additional exploratory analyses revealed that, when the preceding trial was a Dutch word, cognates were recognised up to 50 ms more slowly than English controls. We suggest that when participants must respond ‘no’ to non-target language words, competition arises between the ‘yes’- and ‘no’-responses associated with the two interpretations of a cognate, which (partially) cancels out the facilitation that is a result of the cognate’s shared form and meaning. We conclude that the cognate facilitation effect is a real effect that originates in the lexicon, but that cognates can be subject to competition effects outside the lexicon.

New Preprint on OSF: ‘Retuning of lexical-semantic representations: Repetition and spacing effects in word-meaning priming’


Hannah Betts, Jenni Rodd, and other Word Lab members have a new pre-print published on the Open Science Framework, the details of which can be found below:

Title: “Retuning of lexical-semantic representations: Repetition and spacing effects in word-meaning priming” 

Authors: Hannah N. Betts, Becky A. Gilbert, Zhenguang Garry Cai, Zainab B. Okedara, and Jennifer M. Rodd


Current models of word-meaning access typically assume that lexical-semantic representations of ambiguous words (e.g. ‘bark of the dog/tree’) reach a relatively stable state in adulthood, with only the relative frequencies of the meanings in the language and immediate sentence context determining meaning preference. However, recent experience also affects interpretation: recently-encountered word-meanings become more readily available (Rodd et al., 2016; 2013). Here, three experiments investigated how multiple encounters with word-meanings influence the subsequent interpretation of these words. Participants heard ambiguous words contextually-disambiguated towards a particular meaning and, after a 20-30 minute delay, interpretations of the words were tested in isolation. We replicate the finding that one encounter with an ambiguous word biased later interpretation of this word towards the primed meaning for both subordinate (Experiments 1, 2, 3) and dominant meanings (Experiment 1). In addition, for the first time, we show cumulative effects of multiple repetitions of both the same and different meanings. The effect of a single subordinate exposure persisted after a subsequent encounter with the dominant meaning, compared to a dominant exposure alone (Experiment 1). Furthermore, three subordinate word-meaning repetitions provided an additional boost to priming compared to one, although only when their presentation was spaced (Experiments 2, 3); massed repetitions provided no such boost (Experiments 1, 3). These findings indicate that comprehension is guided by the collective effect of multiple recently activated meanings and that the spacing of these activations is key to producing lasting updates to the lexical-semantic network.