Understanding language-elicited EEG data by predicting it from a fine-tuned language model

ACL 2019

Understanding language-elicited EEG data by predicting it from a fine-tuned language model

Jan 19, 2021
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Abstract: Electroencephalography (EEG) recordings of brain activity taken while participants read or listen to language are widely used within the cognitive neuroscience and psycholinguistics communities as a tool to study language comprehension. Several time-locked stereotyped EEG responses to word-presentations -- known collectively as event-related potentials (ERPs) -- are thought to be markers for semantic or syntactic processes that take place during comprehension. However, the characterization of each individual ERP in terms of what features of a stream of language trigger the response remains controversial. Improving this characterization would make ERPs a more useful tool for studying language comprehension. We take a step towards better understanding the ERPs by fine-tuning a language model to predict them. This new approach to analysis shows for the first time that all of the ERPs are predictable from embeddings of a stream of language. Prior work has only found two of the ERPs to be predictable. In addition to this analysis, we examine which ERPs benefit from sharing parameters during joint training. We find that two pairs of ERPs previously identified in the literature as being related to each other benefit from joint training, while several other pairs of ERPs that benefit from joint training are suggestive of potential relationships. Extensions of this analysis that further examine what kinds of information in the model embeddings relate to each ERP have the potential to elucidate the processes involved in human language comprehension. Authors: Dan Schwartz, Tom Mitchell (Carnegie Mellon University)

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