Shaonan Wang


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How Does the Experimental Setting Affect the Conclusions of Neural Encoding Models?
Xiaohan Zhang | Shaonan Wang | Chengqing Zong
Proceedings of the Thirteenth Language Resources and Evaluation Conference

Recent years have witnessed the tendency of neural encoding models on exploring brain language processing using naturalistic stimuli. Neural encoding models are data-driven methods that require an encoding model to investigate the mystery of brain mechanisms hidden in the data. As a data-driven method, the performance of encoding models is very sensitive to the experimental setting. However, it is unknown how the experimental setting further affects the conclusions of neural encoding models. This paper systematically investigated this problem and evaluated the influence of three experimental settings, i.e., the data size, the cross-validation training method, and the statistical testing method. Results demonstrate that inappropriate cross-validation training and small data size can substantially decrease the performance of encoding models, especially in the temporal lobe and the frontal lobe. And different null hypotheses in significance testing lead to highly different significant brain regions. Based on these results, we suggest a block-wise cross-validation training method and an adequate data size for increasing the performance of linear encoding models. We also propose two strict null hypotheses to control false positive discovery rates.

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Cross-Modal Cloze Task: A New Task to Brain-to-Word Decoding
Shuxian Zou | Shaonan Wang | Jiajun Zhang | Chengqing Zong
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL 2022

Decoding language from non-invasive brain activity has attracted increasing attention from both researchers in neuroscience and natural language processing. Due to the noisy nature of brain recordings, existing work has simplified brain-to-word decoding as a binary classification task which is to discriminate a brain signal between its corresponding word and a wrong one. This pairwise classification task, however, cannot promote the development of practical neural decoders for two reasons. First, it has to enumerate all pairwise combinations in the test set, so it is inefficient to predict a word in a large vocabulary. Second, a perfect pairwise decoder cannot guarantee the performance on direct classification. To overcome these and go a step further to a realistic neural decoder, we propose a novel Cross-Modal Cloze (CMC) task which is to predict the target word encoded in the neural image with a context as prompt. Furthermore, to address this task, we propose a general approach that leverages the pre-trained language model to predict the target word. To validate our method, we perform experiments on more than 20 participants from two brain imaging datasets. Our method achieves 28.91% top-1 accuracy and 54.19% top-5 accuracy on average across all participants, significantly outperforming several baselines. This result indicates that our model can serve as a state-of-the-art baseline for the CMC task. More importantly, it demonstrates that it is feasible to decode a certain word within a large vocabulary from its neural brain activity.

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Is the Brain Mechanism for Hierarchical Structure Building Universal Across Languages? An fMRI Study of Chinese and English
Xiaohan Zhang | Shaonan Wang | Nan Lin | Chengqing Zong
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Evidence from psycholinguistic studies suggests that the human brain builds a hierarchical syntactic structure during language comprehension. However, it is still unknown whether the neural basis of such structures is universal across languages. In this paper, we first analyze the differences in language structure between two diverse languages: Chinese and English. By computing the working memory requirements when applying parsing strategies to different language structures, we find that top-down parsing generates less memory load for the right-branching English and bottom-up parsing is less memory-demanding for Chinese.Then we use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate whether the brain has different syntactic adaptation strategies in processing Chinese and English. Specifically, for both Chinese and English, we extract predictors from the implementations of different parsing strategies, i.e., bottom-up and top-down. Then, these predictors are separately associated with fMRI signals. Results show that for Chinese and English, the brain utilizes bottom-up and top-down parsing strategies separately. These results reveal that the brain adopts parsing strategies with less memory processing load according to different language structures.


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Distill and Replay for Continual Language Learning
Jingyuan Sun | Shaonan Wang | Jiajun Zhang | Chengqing Zong
Proceedings of the 28th International Conference on Computational Linguistics

Accumulating knowledge to tackle new tasks without necessarily forgetting the old ones is a hallmark of human-like intelligence. But the current dominant paradigm of machine learning is still to train a model that works well on static datasets. When learning tasks in a stream where data distribution may fluctuate, fitting on new tasks often leads to forgetting on the previous ones. We propose a simple yet effective framework that continually learns natural language understanding tasks with one model. Our framework distills knowledge and replays experience from previous tasks when fitting on a new task, thus named DnR (distill and replay). The framework is based on language models and can be smoothly built with different language model architectures. Experimental results demonstrate that DnR outperfoms previous state-of-the-art models in continually learning tasks of the same type but from different domains, as well as tasks of different types. With the distillation method, we further show that it’s possible for DnR to incrementally compress the model size while still outperforming most of the baselines. We hope that DnR could promote the empirical application of continual language learning, and contribute to building human-level language intelligence minimally bothered by catastrophic forgetting.


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NCLS: Neural Cross-Lingual Summarization
Junnan Zhu | Qian Wang | Yining Wang | Yu Zhou | Jiajun Zhang | Shaonan Wang | Chengqing Zong
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and the 9th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (EMNLP-IJCNLP)

Cross-lingual summarization (CLS) is the task to produce a summary in one particular language for a source document in a different language. Existing methods simply divide this task into two steps: summarization and translation, leading to the problem of error propagation. To handle that, we present an end-to-end CLS framework, which we refer to as Neural Cross-Lingual Summarization (NCLS), for the first time. Moreover, we propose to further improve NCLS by incorporating two related tasks, monolingual summarization and machine translation, into the training process of CLS under multi-task learning. Due to the lack of supervised CLS data, we propose a round-trip translation strategy to acquire two high-quality large-scale CLS datasets based on existing monolingual summarization datasets. Experimental results have shown that our NCLS achieves remarkable improvement over traditional pipeline methods on both English-to-Chinese and Chinese-to-English CLS human-corrected test sets. In addition, NCLS with multi-task learning can further significantly improve the quality of generated summaries. We make our dataset and code publicly available here:


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Associative Multichannel Autoencoder for Multimodal Word Representation
Shaonan Wang | Jiajun Zhang | Chengqing Zong
Proceedings of the 2018 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

In this paper we address the problem of learning multimodal word representations by integrating textual, visual and auditory inputs. Inspired by the re-constructive and associative nature of human memory, we propose a novel associative multichannel autoencoder (AMA). Our model first learns the associations between textual and perceptual modalities, so as to predict the missing perceptual information of concepts. Then the textual and predicted perceptual representations are fused through reconstructing their original and associated embeddings. Using a gating mechanism our model assigns different weights to each modality according to the different concepts. Results on six benchmark concept similarity tests show that the proposed method significantly outperforms strong unimodal baselines and state-of-the-art multimodal models.

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Memory, Show the Way: Memory Based Few Shot Word Representation Learning
Jingyuan Sun | Shaonan Wang | Chengqing Zong
Proceedings of the 2018 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Distributional semantic models (DSMs) generally require sufficient examples for a word to learn a high quality representation. This is in stark contrast with human who can guess the meaning of a word from one or a few referents only. In this paper, we propose Mem2Vec, a memory based embedding learning method capable of acquiring high quality word representations from fairly limited context. Our method directly adapts the representations produced by a DSM with a longterm memory to guide its guess of a novel word. Based on a pre-trained embedding space, the proposed method delivers impressive performance on two challenging few-shot word similarity tasks. Embeddings learned with our method also lead to considerable improvements over strong baselines on NER and sentiment classification.


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Exploiting Word Internal Structures for Generic Chinese Sentence Representation
Shaonan Wang | Jiajun Zhang | Chengqing Zong
Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

We introduce a novel mixed characterword architecture to improve Chinese sentence representations, by utilizing rich semantic information of word internal structures. Our architecture uses two key strategies. The first is a mask gate on characters, learning the relation among characters in a word. The second is a maxpooling operation on words, adaptively finding the optimal mixture of the atomic and compositional word representations. Finally, the proposed architecture is applied to various sentence composition models, which achieves substantial performance gains over baseline models on sentence similarity task.