How do our brains let us share ideas?
We want to understand how the structure and function of the human brain supports our remarkable, complex capacity for communication. How do we understand speech? How do we learn to speak a new language? How do we recognize people by the sound of their voice? Why do some children struggle with reading? How does the basic biology of the human brain link all of these topics?
Communication neuroscience is the study of how the brain and nervous system control the sending, receiving, and understanding of messages. In humans, most messages are sent using spoken language and are received by listening to other speakers. As such, understanding the brain bases of speech perception and production are at the core of our lab’s research. In addition to the content of our speech, when we speak our voices convey a wealth of information about who we are, where we’re from, and how we feel. We pay attention to all these cues about other people when we interact with them. We can even share ideas across vast time and distance through reading and writing.
Our research approaches these questions about human communication from two avenues. First, we conduct insightful behavioral experiments to discover the factors that enhance, limit, or differentiate our communicative capacities. Second, we utilize sensitive, state-of-the-art technologies for human brain imaging (including structural and functional MRI, EEG, and neuromodulatory techniques) to understand the dynamic neural systems that support communicative behaviors. Our approach is grounded in a systems neuroscience framework — we want to understand whether complex communicative behaviors like speech and language can be understood as extensions of general-purpose processes for perception and learning.
Communication neuroscience is a topic that spans multiple disciplines: neuroscience, linguistics, speech-language pathology, psychology, cognitive science, audiology, computer science, engineering, education, and others. Moreover, our research technologies are inherently multi-modal. Our lab’s research draws on the diverse strengths and expertise of our students and staff to accomplish our science.