Semantic priming modulates the N400, N300, and N400RP

Michael S. Franklin, Joseph Dien, James H. Neely, Elizabeth Huber, Lauren D. Waterson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To determine whether ERP components can differentiate between the semantic priming mechanisms of automatic spreading activation, expectancy, and semantic matching. Methods: The present study manipulated two factors known to differentiate semantic priming mechanisms: associations between words (forward, backward, and symmetrical) and prime-target stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA). Twenty-six participants were tested in each SOA condition while high-density 128-channel data were collected. Principal components analysis was applied to separate the ERP components. Results: Priming was observed for all conditions. Three semantic components were present: (1) the standard N400 effect for symmetric and forward priming pairs at both short and long SOAs, (2) an N300 for the long SOA symmetric priming pairs, and (3) a right-lateralized posterior N400RP for long SOA backward priming pairs. Conclusions: Results suggest that the N300 reflects expectancy, but only for categorical and/or semantic similarity priming. Results further suggest that the N400RP is a replicable ERP component that responds to semantic matching. There is also some evidence that the N400 indirectly responds to both ASA and expectancy, perhaps as part of a post-lexical updating process and that backward priming at short SOAs is different from that at long SOAs. Significance: Improved understanding of the semantic properties of the N400 and related ERP components may increase their utility for understanding language processes and for diagnostic purposes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1053-1068
Number of pages16
JournalClinical Neurophysiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2007


  • Attention
  • Event related potential (ERP)
  • N400
  • Semantic priming

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Semantic priming modulates the N400, N300, and N400RP'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this