Introduction: In subject-object-verb (SOV) languages, such as Japanese, sentence processing proceeds incrementally to the late presentation of the head (verb). Japanese case particles play a crucial role in sentence processing; however, little is known about how these particles are processed. In particular, it is still unclear how the functional difference between case particles is represented in the human brain. Methods: In this study, we conducted an fMRI experiment using an event-related design to directly compare brain activity during Japanese case particle processing among the nominative case ga, accusative case o, and dative case ni. Twenty five native Japanese speakers were asked to judge whether the presented character was a particle in a particle judgment task and whether the character ended with a specific vowel in a phonological judgment task, which was used as a control condition. Results: A particle comparison demonstrated that the processing of ni was associated with significantly weaker brain activity than that of ga and o in the left middle frontal gyrus (MFG) and the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG). Significantly greater brain activity associated with ni relative to ga in the right IFG was also observed. Conclusion: These results suggest that the Japanese case particles ga, ni, and o are represented differently in the brain.
- Functional MRI