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Recent behavioural studies with toddlers have demonstrated that simply viewing a picture in silence triggers a cascade of linguistic processing which activates a representation of the picture's name (Mani and Plunkett, 2010, 2011). Electrophysiological studies have also shown that viewing a picture modulates the auditory evoked potentials (AEPs) triggered by later speech, from early in the second year of life (Duta et al., 2012; Friedrich and Friederici, 2005; Mani et al., 2011) further supporting the notion that picture viewing gives rise to a representation of the picture's name against which later speech can be matched. However, little is known about how and when the implicit name arises during picture viewing, or about the electrophysiological activity which supports this linguistic process. We report differences in the visual evoked potentials (VEPs) of fourteen-month-old infants who saw photographs of animals and objects, some of which were name-known (lexicalized), while waiting for an auditory label to be presented. During silent picture viewing, lateralized neural activity was selectively triggered by lexicalized items, as compared to nameless items. Lexicalized items generated a short-lasting negative-going deflection over frontal, left centro-temporal, and left occipital regions shortly after the picture appeared (126-225 ms). A positive deflection was also observed over the right hemisphere (particularly centro-temporal regions) in a later, longer-lasting window (421-720 ms). The lateralization of these differences in the VEP suggests the possible involvement of linguistic processes during picture viewing, and may reflect activity involved in the implicit activation of the picture's name.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





177 - 184


Event-related potentials, Implicit naming, Infancy, Lateralization, Brain, Child Language, Electroencephalography, Evoked Potentials, Visual, Functional Laterality, Humans, Infant, Language Tests, Names, Neuropsychological Tests, Pattern Recognition, Visual, Speech Perception