My research broadly focuses on reading, speech and language. I believe a key assumption about language is that it is a biological system, and is thus shaped by evolution and genetics, as well as by such general cognitive factors as attention and working memory.
Functional Neuroimaging of Reading and Speech
My lab studies the cognitive and neural bases of written and spoken language using standard behavioural methods as well as neuroimaging techniques like functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and Event-Related Potentials (ERPs). I am primarily interested in how reading ability builds on network of brain regions that correspond to more fundamental abilities like articulatory and acoustic phonetics, visual object recognition, conceptual knowledge, and attention. My work on neuroimaging of speech perception examines the brain bases of phonetic processing, compared to other types of auditory signals, and what this could tell us about why some people with language disorders have speech perception deficits. This research is done in collaboration with researchers at the Centre for Functional and Metabolic Mapping at the Robarts Research Institute.
Phonological Bases of Developmental Reading and Language Impairments
I study language processing in children with developmental disorders. My main interest is the role of speech perception and phonology in reading disability (dyslexia) and specific language impairments (SLI). Work in my lab focuses on: speech perception abilities of reading and language impaired children; the use of eyetracking and ERPs to measure the time course of auditory word recognition in normally developing and reading impaired children; studying the role of working memory and speech perception in auditory sentence comprehension; and neuroimaging approaches to studying speech processing in language impaired populations
Because I am not a clinician, I cannot give advice on the diagnosis or treatment of childhood reading and language impairments. For more information on these topics, please contact the International Dyslexia Society (formerly, the Orton Dyslexia Society) and the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association
I also study how people learn and process the rules of language, especially morphology. A significant debate in psycholinguistics revolves around the status of systematic forms (e.g., regular past tenses like bake-baked) vs. exceptions (e.g., irregular past tenses like take-took). The resolution of this issue can help us better understand the types of brain mechanisms we use to learn all the rules of language. My more recent work examines the extent to which we automatically decompose written words like racer into uts constituent elements.