What is the effect of ageing on language processing?

Some aspects of language processing seem to be largely affected by age (e.g. naming, writing, grammar production), while other language processes (e.g. syntactic comprehension) remain intact throughout the lifespan. I am interested in the neurobiological infrastructure that underlies the preservation versus decline of language processing. I am currently working on projects inverstigating the neural compensation that may take place to ensure that some language processes remain intact in ageing populations. I am also interested in identifying external factors that could counter age-related declines in language processing, one of these factors could be physical fitness. If you would like to volunteer and participate in one of our projects, please see here.

What drives behavioural syntactic priming effects?

Does social context influence core language processing?

Syntactic priming is a paradigm often used in behavioural experiments on syntactic processing. I am interested in how syntactic preferences determine syntactic priming effects, and how priming effects in syntactic choices relate to priming effects in reaction times.


Read more:

Segaert, K., Wheeldon, L. & Hagoort, P. (2016) Unifying structural priming effects on syntactic choices and timing of sentence generation. Journal of Memory and Language, (PDF)

Segaert, K., Weber, K., Cladder-Micus, M., & Hagoort, P. (2014). The influence of verb-bound syntactic preferences on the processing of syntactic structures.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 40(5), 1448-1460. doi:10.1037/a0036796. (PDF)

Segaert, K., Menenti, L., Weber, K., & Hagoort, P. (2011). A paradox of syntactic priming: Why response tendencies show priming for passives, and response latencies show priming for actives. PLoS One, 6(10), e24209. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0024209. (PDF)



Production and comprehension are often assumed to be two separated systems. I conducted several studies using an fMRI adaptation paradigm during speech comprehension and overt production in which I showed that the neurobiological infrastructure for syntactic and semantic processing is shared for speaking and listening.

I am currently conducting studies using a combined EEG-fMRI approach to further investigate interregional communication in the brain network supporting syntactic and semantic processing (funded by The Welcome Trust).


Read more:

Segaert, K., Menenti, L., Weber, K., Petersson, K. M., & Hagoort, P. (2012).Shared syntax in language production and language comprehension — An fMRI study. Cerebral Cortex, 22, 1662-1670. (PDF)

Menenti, L., Gierhan, S., Segaert, K., & Hagoort, P. (2011). Shared language: Overlap and segregation of the neuronal infrastructure for speaking and listening revealed by functional MRI. Psychological Science, 22, 1173-1182.(PDF)

Language processing is most often studied in experiments with one participant doing a language task. But of course, in daily life, language is most often used in a communicative setting with a conversation partner. Interesting is that research has shown that core language processes, like syntax, are influenced by the communicative and social context in which they take place.


Read more:

Schoot, L., Heyselaar, E., Hagoort, P., & Segaert, K. (2016) Does syntactic alignment effectively influence how speakers are perceived by their conversation partner? PLoS One, 11(4): e015352. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0153521. (PDF)

Segaert, K. & Hagoort, P. (book chapter accepted for publication) Syntactic priming experiments reveal the influence of contextual and interactional information on syntactic processing. New ways of analyzing syntactic variation. Grondelaers, S. & van Hout, R. (editors). Publisher De Gruyter Mouton. (PDF)

Schoot, L., Menenti, L., Hagoort, P., & Segaert, K. (2014). A little more conversation - The influence of communicative context on syntactic priming in brain and behavior. Frontiers in Psychology, 5: 208. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00208. (PDF)




How is syntactic and semantic processing instantiated in the brain?

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