Focuses: Psycholinguistics – Neuroscience – Syntax – Phase theory
Leah’s research involves linking current syntactic theory with the cognitive neuroscience of language. Current studies are probing the processing units during language comprehension and testing whether sentential processing aligns with the predictions of the Minimalist Program proposed by Noam Chomsky. Specifically, behavioral studies have been finding processing differences between relative clauses and prepositional phrases, in that semantic content within clauses appears to be encapsulated from surrounding content more so than the content of a prepositional phrase. Since the Minimalist Program predicts that clauses are distinct and complete linguistic units, these behavioral findings are encouraging further research into the link between linguistic theory and language comprehension.
Future studies are planned using electrophysiological and neuroimaging techniques to pinpoint the time course and cortical regions implicated in sentence comprehension. In addition to exploring language in the general population, this research also hopes to recruit specific patient populations to probe language comprehension in people with acquired language disorders such as fluent and nonfluent aphasia, as well as neurodegenerative diseases such as semantic dementia. The study of language comprehension in patient populations can illuminate essential language processing cortical regions and white matter tracts, as well as potentially offer suggestions for language disorder interventions.
Students working with Leah would have opportunities to:
1. Create stimuli, such as
- The lakes with salmon are spawning
- The lakes with salmon are deep
2. Code experimental items into E-Prime, Matlab, or other software
3. Independently collect behavioral data
4. Assist in collection of EEG or MRI data
5. Assist in data analysis and interpretation