Cognitive Neuroscience of Language Lab

Lee Osterhout, Director    Dept of Psychology    University of Washington









Research Overview

In our lab, we use the tools of cognitive neuroscience to learn more about the cognitive and neural underpinnings of human language.  Our primary method involves recording event-related brain potentials (ERPs) from the scalp while people read or listen to language.  Unlike other brain-based methods such as fMRI, ERPs provide a continuous, millisecond-by-millisecond record of the brain's electrical activity.  We have learned, for example, that the brain responds differently to anomalies involving sentence structure (syntax) and sentence meaning (semantics).  We have used these language-sensitive ERP effects to investigate a wide range of language-related phenomena, including the real-time comprehension of words and sentences, changes in brain activity that occur during the earliest stages of second-language learning, and even linguistically encoded social stereotypes.

Our lab is supported by generous funding from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, National Institutes of Health.