The electrophysiology of language production: what could be improved

Abstract:

Recently, the field of spoken-word production has seen an increasing interest in the use of the electroencephalogram (EEG), mainly for event-related potentials (ERPs). These are exciting times to be a language production researcher. However, no matter how much we would like our results to speak to our theories, they can only do so if our methods are formally correct and valid, and reported in ways that allow replicability. Inappropriate practices in signal processing and statistical testing, when applied to our investigations, may render our conclusions invalid or non-generalizable. Here, we first present some issues in signal processing and statistical testing that we think deserve more attention when analysing data, reporting results, and making inferences. These issues are not new to electrophysiology, so our sole contribution is to reiterate them in order to provide pointers to literature where they have been discussed in more detail and solutions have been proposed. We then discuss other issues pertinent to our investigations of overt word-production because of the effects (and potential confounds) that speaking will have on the signal. Although we cannot provide answers to some of the issues raised, we invite researchers in the field to jointly work on solutions so that the topic of the electrophysiology of word production can thrive on solid grounds.