Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience of Language and Memory
Tier 2 - 2003-06-01
Coming to Canada from
Harvard Medical School, USA
Study of various types of language comprehension and memory processes using several cognitive and neuroscientific methods.
Determination of how the brain allows us to create meaning from language.
Turning Words Into Meaning
They come so naturally - and so easily - to most humans that we tend to take the acts of speech recognition and language processing for granted. But the computational aspects of understanding spoken language are enormous, falling into the basic categories of word recognition, acoustic-phonetic mapping, lexical ambiguity resolution (determining the contextually appropriate meaning of a word) and figurative language processing.
Dr. Debra Titone's research will address all of these computational challenges from the perspective of cognitive neuroscience, with the overall goal of unravelling the mysteries of language processing.
Her work will take three distinct but interdependent forms. First, she will investigate how healthy adults normally process speech and higher level aspects of language, such as idioms and metaphors. Second, she will examine how normal comprehension breaks down in people with neurological impairments, such as schizophrenia or stroke. Finally, she will look at the elements of language comprehension and the basic memory phenomena that support them, by using measurements such as event-related potentials (ERPs), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and magnetoencephalography (MEG).
Dr. Titone has four research objectives. Her first is to determine the processes involved in normal and disordered spoken word recognition. The second is to understand how the brain implements the components of language processing that resolve linguistic ambiguity, allowing us to determine whether the person speaking means a "complicated card game" or an "elevated structure in Brooklyn" when using the word "bridge" in a sentence. The third objective is to determine how the brain processes idioms and metaphors, with particular regard for people with schizophrenia or damage to the right hemisphere of the brain. Dr. Titone's fourth goal is to determine how the hippocampal and medial temporal lobe sections of the brain relate to memory and language, and if this relationship is different for healthy adults and those with schizophrenia or other neurological impairments.