Brain and Language Lab
The lab investigates the neurocognition of language and memory in healthy populations and disorders. To find out more, select an option from the menu. Listed below are some recent findings.
JANACSEK ET AL., 2019
In a neuroanatomical meta-analysis of the serial reaction time task, we systematically examined the neural bases of sequence learning, which underlies numerous motor, cognitive, and social skills. Controlling for visual, motor, and other factors (in sequence-random block contrasts), sequence learning yielded consistent activation only in the basal ganglia, across the striatum (anterior/mid caudate nucleus and putamen) and the globus pallidus. In contrast, when visual, motor, and other factors were not controlled for, premotor cortical and cerebellar activation were additionally observed. The study provides solid evidence that, at least as tested with the serial reaction time task, sequence learning in humans relies on the basal ganglia, whereas cerebellar and premotor regions appear to contribute to aspects of the task not related to sequence learning itself.
Grammar learning activates anterior caudate/putamen (procedural memory) structures, while word learning activates ventral stream occipito-temporal (declarative memory) structures. Moreover, grammar learning predicted to rely especially on declarative memory (e.g., with explicit training) shows hippocampal involvement, while grammar learning predicted to rely particularly on procedural memory (e.g., with implicit training) shows anterior caudate/putamen involvement.
Child first language and adult second language are both tied to general-purpose learning systems in the brain that are evolutionarily ancient, and are also found in other vertebrates.
Does being bilingual help your brain learn additional languages? The answer seems to be yes: if you've learned two languages early in life, it may help your brain learn another language later on.
Multiple micronutrient supplementation of pregnant women benefits the cognition of their children at ages 9-12 years, as shown in a study that examined 2879 children in Lombok, Indonesia.
Children with Tourette syndrome show evidence for speeded grammatical combination in phonology (in a nonword repetition task), complementing previous evidence for speeded combination in morphology.
Declarative memory compensates for multiple deficits across neurodevelopmental disorders, including deficits of social skills in autism, reading in dyslexia, and grammar in specific language impairment.
In patients with early Parkinson’s disease, subthalamic nucleus deep brain stimulation affects grammatical (but not lexical) abilities, and naming manipulated (but not non-manipulated) objects.
Evidence that grammar relies on procedural memory in typically developing (TD) children, but on declarative memory in children with specific language impairment (SLI); both rely on declarative memory for lexical abilities.
Complex linguistic forms can be stored or composed, as a function of multiple interacting factors, including regularity, sex, first vs. second language, and both length of residence and age of arrival in second language.