Dynamics of brain activation during learning of syllable-symbol paired associations

Jarmo A. Hämäläinen*, Tiina Parviainen, Yi Fang Hsu, Riitta Salmelin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Initial stages of reading acquisition require the learning of letter and speech sound combinations. While the long-term effects of audio-visual learning are rather well studied, relatively little is known about the short-term learning effects at the brain level. Here we examined the cortical dynamics of short-term learning using magnetoencephalography (MEG) and electroencephalography (EEG) in two experiments that respectively addressed active and passive learning of the association between shown symbols and heard syllables. In experiment 1, learning was based on feedback provided after each trial. The learning of the audio-visual associations was contrasted with items for which the feedback was meaningless. In experiment 2, learning was based on statistical learning through passive exposure to audio-visual stimuli that were consistently presented with each other and contrasted with audio-visual stimuli that were randomly paired with each other. After 5–10 min of training and exposure, learning-related changes emerged in neural activation around 200 and 350 ms in the two experiments. The MEG results showed activity changes at 350 ms in caudal middle frontal cortex and posterior superior temporal sulcus, and at 500 ms in temporo-occipital cortex. Changes in brain activity coincided with a decrease in reaction times and an increase in accuracy scores. Changes in EEG activity were observed starting at the auditory P2 response followed by later changes after 300 ms. The results show that the short-term learning effects emerge rapidly (manifesting in later stages of audio-visual integration processes) and that these effects are modulated by selective attention processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-103
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Jun


  • Audio-visual
  • Electroencephalography
  • Learning
  • Magnetoencephalography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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