Rabia Gondur ‘22
Major: Integrative Neuroscience
Bio: Rabia is a senior majoring in Integrative Neuroscience. She has been volunteering at Dr. Sarah Grey’s ELM Lab, and conducted her neuroscience capstone with Dr. Grey. Rabia’s research investigated the effects of having a left-handed blood relative on semantic processing. Rabia is also part of Fordham’s Accelerated Master’s program studying Data Science, and she hopes to integrate her background in neuroscience and neurolinguistics with machine learning and artificial intelligence in the future.
Title of Research: Left-handedness and language: A brainwave analysis of semantic processing and familial left-handedness
Mentor: Dr. Sarah Grey, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures
Abstract: Being left-handed or being right-handed with a left-handed blood relative (called familial sinistrality) has been shown to affect the brain’s response to grammar information during sentence comprehension (e.g., Tanner & Van Hell, 2014). Theoretical perspectives on handedness propose that self or familial left-handedness is related to increased reliance on lexical/semantic information rather than grammar-based, structural information during sentence comprehension. Event-related potential (ERP; brainwaves) research supports this and shows that left-handers (self or familial) are more likely to show an N400 ERP response – a brainwave correlate of lexical/semantic processing – during grammar processing (e.g., Grey, Tanner, & Van Hell, 2017). Non-left-handers, in contrast, tend to show a P600 ERP response – a brainwave correlate of structural linguistic processing and a result in line with the theoretical perspective that they rely more on structural, grammar-based information during comprehension. The existing research has examined the effects of handedness on grammar processing mainly in groups of right-handers with or without familial sinistrality, but has not tested semantic processing. Theoretically, right-handers with and without familial sinistrality (FS-plus and FS-minus individuals, respectively) should show different effects for semantic processing: FS-plus individuals should be more likely to show robust N400s whereas FS-minus should show either smaller N400s or P600s (using structural mechanisms to process semantic information). This study analyzed the effect of familial handedness on the ERP correlates of semantic processing on right-handers. The results showed no significant ERP effects in a small group of FS-plus individuals and an apparent P600 effect in the group of FS-minus individuals, consistent with that group using structural linguistic mechanisms during semantic processing.