Cognitive Neuroscience of Language Lab


    Lee Osterhout, Principal Investigator


    Department of Psychology and the

    Graduate Program in Neuroscience

    University of Washington

    Seattle, WA 98195


    On campus: Guthrie 225

    Office email:








Our Mission

Human language seems to be uniquely human and is profoundly important to our species.  The mission of the Cognitive Neuroscience of Language lab is to learn more about the cognitive and neurophysiological underpinnings of human language. We are specifically interested in the neurocognition of language comprehension in fluent native speakers and in adult second language learners.  Our primary method involves recording event-related brain potentials (ERPs) from the scalp while a person reads or listens to language.  We also use the University of Washington's new, state-of-the-art neuroimaging facilities for structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)  studies.   


Our lab has received generous funding from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, and  from the National Science Foundation.


New Research Findings:

 Many deaf people struggle to read, especially when the written symbols used in the writing system encode units of sound.  However, some deaf individuals do become highly proficient readers.   Mehravari et al. (2017) recorded event-related brain potentials (ERPs) while deaf and hearing adults read English sentences, some of which contained a semantically or syntactically anomalous word. They report that reading proficiency in hearing people was predicted by the magnitude of the brain response to syntactic (grammar-based) anomalies, whereas reading proficiency in deaf individuals was predicted by the magnitude of the brain response to semantic (meaning-based) anomalies. These results indicate that equally proficient hearing and deaf readers become proficient readers by attending to different aspects of the language. One implication is that different pedagogical strategies (for example, "learning by meaning" or "learning by form"), tailored to the population of interest, might lead to better reading outcomes. (Click on Publications link for more information.)


Recent poster presentations:

Brain-based individual difference measures of reading skill in deaf adults

Morphological triggers and the P600: ERP evidence for morphological expectations

How gender, handedness, and L1 processing strategy influence L2 grammatical processing





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