Thursday, October 28, 2010

Postdoctoral position - Rotman Research Institute, Toronto

A postdoctoral fellowship in neurobiology of language is available in the laboratory of Dr. Jed Meltzer, at the Rotman Research Institute, affiliated with the University of Toronto. The fellow will engage in research related to both basic language processes and applications to diagnosis and treatment of post-stroke aphasia, progressive aphasia, traumatic brain injury, and other neurological disorders. Candidates should have expertise and/or interest in some of the following topics:

- - sentence and discourse level comprehension and production

- - neurorehabilitation in stroke and dementia

- - frequency domain analysis of EEG/MEG data

- - multivariate pattern recognition analyses

- - applications of computational linguistics to neuroscience

- - quantitative analysis of naturalistic language samples

- - functional connectivity in fMRI and MEG

The Rotman Institute is fully equipped for cognitive neuroscience research, with a 3T MRI, 151-channel CTF MEG, several EEG systems, and an excellent infrastructure for patient recruitment and testing. We seek a candidate with excellent computational skills, academic knowledge of psycholinguistics, and a personal manner suitable for comfortable interactions with elderly patients with limited communication abilities. Prior experience with neuroimaging is helpful but not an absolute must.

Toronto is consistently ranked as one of the most livable cities in the world, as well as the most multicultural. It is an excellent place to work for those interested in cross-linguistic research, as native speaker populations can be found for dozens of world languages.

Applicants should have a recent Ph.D. or M.D. degree, and the potential for successfully obtaining external funding. The postdoctoral position carries a term of 2 years and is potentially renewable. Bursaries are in line with the fellowship scales of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and include an allowance for travel and research expenses. A minimum of 80% of each fellow’s time will be devoted to research and related activities.

Start date is negotiable, but ideally in the spring of 2011.

To apply, please send a current CV and letter of interest to:

Jed Meltzer, Ph.D.

Up to three letters of reference may be forwarded to the same address. Meetings and interviews may be arranged at the upcoming Neurobiology of Language and Society for Neuroscience conferences in San Diego, although this is certainly not required.

For more information on the institute, see

and for our lab specifically,

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How can we measure "integration"?

"Integration" is a major operation in language processing (and other domains). We have to integrate bits of sounds to extract words, integrate morphemic bits to derive word meanings, integrate lexical-semantic information with syntactic information, sensory with motor information, audio with visual information, and all of this with the contextual background.

Some theorists talk specifically about regions of the brain that perform such integrations. I've got my favorite sensory-motor integration site, Hagoort has a theory about phonological, semantic, and syntactic integration in (different portions of) Broca's area, more broadly, Damasio has been talking about "convergence zones" (aka, integration sites) for years.

Two thoughts come to mind. One, is there any part of the brain that isn't doing integration, i.e., how useful is the concept? And two, if the concept does have some value, how do we identify integration areas?

I don't know the answer to first question and I have some concerns about the way some in the field approach the second. W.r.t. the latter, a typical approach is to look for regions that increase in activity as a function of "integration load". The idea is that by making integration harder, we will drive integration areas more strongly and this will cause them to pop out in our brain scans. This seems logical enough. But is it true?

Suppose Broca's area -- the region that always seems to get involved when the going gets tough -- activates more in an audiovisual speech condition in which the audio and visual signals mismatch compared to when they match (an actual result). Let's consider the possible interpretations.

1. Broca's area does AV integration. It is less active when integration is easy, i.e., when A and V match than when integration is hard, i.e., when they mismatch because it has to work harder to integrate mismatched signals.

2. Broca's area doesn't do AV integration. It is less active when integration is actually happening, i.e., when A and V match, reflecting its non-involvment, than when integration isn't working, i.e., when there is an AV mismatch. Of course, this explanation requires an alternative explanation for why Broca's activates more for mismatch situations. There are plenty of possibilities: ambiguity resolution, response selection, error detection or just a WTF response (given the response properties of Broca's area I sometimes wonder if we should re-label it as area WTF).

Both possibilities seem perfectly consistent with the facts. Similar possibilities exist for other forms of integration making me question whether the "load" logic is really telling us what we think it is telling us.

There is another approach to identifying integration zones, namely to look for areas that respond to both types of information independently but respond better when they appear together. In our example, AV integration zones would be those areas that respond to auditory speech or visual speech, but respond best to AV speech. I tend to like this approach a bit better.

What are your thoughts?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Faculty position at NYU-AD: cognition/perception/cogneuro

Dear colleagues,

New York University is in the process of hiring tenure-track faculty for the Psychology program at its new campus in Abu Dhabi. The current search is for candidates with a strong program of research in the areas of cognition and/or perception, including cognitive neuroscience approaches.

NYUAD is committed to building top-tier research-focused programs in psychology and neuroscience. The present campus includes state-of-the art facilities for behavioral and neuroimaging research, and this facilities will continue to expand. In addition to being part of the growing academic community in Abu Dhabi, faculty will maintain close connections with colleagues in NYC, with opportunities to spend significant portions of time at the New York City campus – in all, a unique opportunity.

Please see the attached job ad for more details. You can also forward any inquiries to or to the search committee chair, David Amodio, at

Of interest to cognitive neuroscience of language types:

One of the research directions at NYU AD will be language-related research. A start-up grant was give to build a research center, housing MEG, EEG, and eye tracking.

The Neuroscience of Language Laboratory will explore how the ability to use natural language is implemented in the brain. While most of the existing research in this area is based on English language study, the laboratory’s location in Abu Dhabi will provide researchers with access to speakers of Arabic and many other languages, including Hindi, Bengali, and Tagolog. Professor Ali Idrissi, chair of the linguistics department at United Arab Emirates University, will serve as the lab’s senior research associate.

Principal Investigators: Alec Marantz, Professor of Linguistics and Psychology, Faculty of Arts and Science, NYU; Liina Pylkkänen, Assistant Professor of Linguistics and Psychology, Faculty of Arts and Science, NYU and David Poeppel, Professor of Psychology and Neural Science, Faculty of Arts and Science, NYU.


FACULTY POSITIONS Psychology Cognitive Neuroscience, Cognition, and Perception

NYU Abu Dhabi

New York University has established a campus in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates and invites applications for faculty positions at any level (assistant, associate or full professor). We are seeking candidates with a strong program of research in cognition and/or perception, including cognitive neuroscience approaches, who are also committed to excellence in teaching and mentoring.
The terms of employment are competitive compared to U.S. benchmarks and include housing and educational subsidies for children. Faculty may spend time at NYU in New York and at its other global campuses. The appointment may start as soon as September 1, 2011, or could be delayed until as late as September 1, 2012.

NYU Abu Dhabi is in the process of recruiting faculty of international distinction committed to active research and the finest teaching in order to build a pioneering global institution of the highest quality and forge an international community of scholars and students.

Alongside its highly-selective liberal arts college, NYU Abu Dhabi will create distinctive graduate programs and a world-class institute for advanced research that fosters creative work across the Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences, Sciences, and Engineering. Situated at a new global crossroads, NYU Abu Dhabi has the resources and resolve to become a preeminent center of collaborative intellectual pursuit and impact.

NYU New York and NYU Abu Dhabi are integrally connected. The faculties work together, and the campuses form the foundation of a unique global network university, linked to NYU’s other study and research sites on five continents.

Major research projects and public programs are underway. We have recruited our first cohort of faculty across many disciplines and the first class of students of remarkable potential from across the world arrived in fall 2010. The international character of NYUAD is reflected in the global composition of the faculty and the student body as well as the research agenda and curriculum, which have been designed to promote inventiveness, intellectual curiosity, multidisciplinary interest, and intercultural understanding.

The review of applications will begin on December 1, 2010. Applicants must submit a curriculum vitae, statement of research and teaching interests, representative publications and three letters of reference in PDF form to be considered. Please visit our website at for instructions and other information on how to apply. If you have any questions, please e-mail Abu Dhabi is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.


Friday, October 15, 2010

International Seminar on Speech Production

ISSP’11: Speech production: from brain to behavior

The ninth International Seminar on Speech Production (ISSP'11) will be held in Montreal, Canada from June 20th to 23rd, 2011. ISSP’11 is the continuation of a series of seminars dating back to Grenoble (1988), Leeds (1990), Old Saybrook (1993), Autrans (1996), Kloster Seeon (2000), Sydney (2003), Ubatuba (2006), and Strasbourg (2008). Several aspects of speech production will be covered, such as phonology, phonetics, linguistics, mechanics, acoustics, physiology, motor control, the neurosciences and computer science.

Montreal’s vieux port (old city), business district, and the nearby Laurentian mountains all contribute to Montreal’s international reputation. Montreal is one of the most important French-English bilingual cities in the world. A vibrant expression of French heritage in North America!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Asst/Assoc Research Prof positions - Center for Mind/Brain Sciences (CIMeC) at the University of Trento

The Center for Mind/Brain Sciences (CIMeC) at the University of Trento is seeking to fill a number of research positions in cognitive neuroscience at the Assistant or Associate Research Professor level. The Center offers an international and vibrant research setting in which to investigate the functioning of the brain through the analysis of its functional, structural and physiological characteristics, in both normal and pathological states. Researchers at the Center make use of state-of-the-art neuroimaging methodologies, including a research-only MRI scanner, MEG, EEG and TMS, as well as behavioral, eye tracking and motion tracking laboratories. The Center also includes a neuropsychology and neuro-rehabilitation clinic (CERiN). The Center strongly encourages collaborative and innovative research, and provides the opportunity for all researchers to access laboratory resources and to be part of the Doctoral School in Cognitive and Brain Sciences. CIMeC also has close collaborations with local research centers, including FBK (Fondazione Bruno Kessler) and IIT (Italian Institute of Technology), through joint projects and through the doctoral school. Further information about the Center can be found at:

The ideal researchers (from all areas of cognitive neuroscience, including computational neuroscience and neuroimaging methods) must hold the Ph.D. or M.D. degree, and should have a record documenting research creativity, independence, and productivity. We are looking for researchers able to build and maintain a high quality research program and to contribute to the maintenance of a collegial and collaborative academic environment.

The Center offers excellent experimental facilities and a competitive European-level salary in the context of a rapidly growing and dynamic environment. Funding is available for 6 years. The initial contract would be for 3 years. There is no associated university teaching load, although researchers will be expected to participate in the research culture of the Center through seminars, supervision of students and other activities.

The University of Trento is ranked first among research universities in Italy, and the Trentino region is consistently at the top for quality of life and for the most efficient services in Italy. English is the official language of the CIMeC, where a large proportion of the faculty, post-docs and students come from a wide range of countries outside of Italy. CIMeC’s labs and the PhD School are in Rovereto (about thirty kilometres south of Trento) and Mattarello (eight kilometres south of Trento).

If you wish to receive further information please contact the Director of the CIMeC, Prof. Alfonso Caramazza ( or Vice-Director Prof. Giorgio Vallortigara ( by November 15, 2010.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Postdoctoral Position - Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York

A postdoctoral position is available immediately in the laboratory of Dr. Kristina Simonyan in the Department of Neurology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York. The research emphases of the laboratory are on the studies of brain mechanisms of voice and speech production and the neurological correlates of primary focal dystonias (e.g., spasmodic dysphonia) using a multi-modal neuroimaging approach (fMRI, DTI, high-resolution MRI, PET).

The ideal candidate will have an M.D. and/or Ph.D. in neuroscience or a relevant field and knowledge of computational (especially Linux, MATLAB) and statistical (AFNI, FSL) methods. Familiarity with connectivity analysis and neuroreceptor mapping is preferred.

Inquires should be sent to and interviews can be arranged at the Neurobiology of Language Conference in San Diego.

Alternatively, interested candidates should send CV, brief description of research experience and three references to:

Kristina Simonyan, M.D., Ph.D.
Department of Neurology
Mount Sinai School of Medicine
One Gustave L. Levy Place, Box 1137
New York, NY 10029
Tel: (212) 241-0656

Friday, October 8, 2010

Steve Small joins UC Irvine faculty

Steve Small has been enticed to leave the Windy City where he was professor of Neurology and Psychology at the University of Chicago, and move to The OC in Southern California where he joins the faculty at UC Irvine as Chair of the Neurology Department. He will also have close ties to the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and Department of Cognitive Sciences. Steve, of course, is a long-time, significant player in the world of Language Neuroscience. Besides his many publications, he is Editor-in-Chief of Brain and Language and led the effort to found the Neurobiology of Language Conference, which is gearing up for its second meeting.

Steve and I come from very different schools of thought when it comes to language generally: I was trained at MIT he was trained at CMU; he has been sympathetic to mirror neuron related approaches, me not so much. But, for those you expecting a bloody, glove-off battle, sorry... it turns out we agree on more things than either of us thought we would -- once you actually sit down and start talking that is. I am looking forward to working with him. For sure, the addition of Steve Small to our UC Irvine language science community will add a new dimension. I'm sure Steve and I will find a few things to debate, so it could be an interesting place to do doctoral or post-doc work. Stay tuned for future advertisements.

So what convinced Steve to come to Irvine? (Beside it being Talking Brains West, of course!)

Chicago winter:

Irvine winter:

What would you choose?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Internal forward models -- New insight or just hype?

In case you haven't noticed, the concept of internal forward models -- an internal prediction about a future event or state -- are all the rage. The concept comes out of the motor control literature where one can find pretty solid evidence that motor control makes use of forward predictions of the sensory consequences of motor commands (e.g., check out the seminal paper by Wolpert, Ghahramani, & Jordan, 1995). These concepts have been extended to speech (e.g., Tourville et al. 2008; van Wassenhove et al., 2005) and there has been a ton of work trying to establish the neural correlates of these networks (e.g., see Golfinopoulos et al. 2009; Shadmehr & Krakauer, 2008), recent work suggesting an association with clinical conditions such as aspects of schizophrenia (Heinks-Maldonado, et al. 2007) and stuttering (Max et al. 2004), and even applications of the concept of high-level cognition such as "thought" (Ito, 2008), as well as applications to social cognition (Wolpert et al. 2003) with links to the mirror system (Miall, 2003).

I'm a big fan of control theory in general and I think there is a lot to be gained by thinking about speech processes in these terms. At the same time, I'm a little uncomfortable with the widespread application of these models. It kind of reminds me of the mirror neuron situation in that a framework for thinking about one problem is generalized to all kinds of situations. I'm also a bit uncomfortable about the assumed tethering between forward models and the motor system. A forward model is just a prediction. In the context of motor control, it makes sense to make predictions (e.g., sensory predictions) based on the likely outcomes of motor commands. But more generally, predictions can come from lots of sources. Perceptual fill-in processes are a kind of forward model: the visual system for example makes predictions about the color and texture of a given portion of the visual scene based on the color and texture around that region. One can predict the consequences of an ocean wave hitting a rock based on past perceptual experiences. So forward models don't have to come from the motor system and there are probably lots of systems and mechanisms that generate predictions (forward models). It is worth having a look at Karniel's (2002) short comment, "Three creatures named 'forward model'" for some cautionary discussion.

So is the internal forward model concept just hype? No, I don't think so. It has already demonstrated its utility in the motor control literature and there are systems in the brain that appear to support motor-related forward models (cerebellum is one, posterior parietal cortex is another). There are some real insights to be gained from this framework in the speech domain as well, but I think there is the danger of over-application of the concept and we need to proceed cautiously.


Golfinopoulos, E., Tourville, J.A., and Guenther, F.H. (2009). The integration of large-scale neural network modeling and functional brain imaging in speech motor control. Neuroimage 52, 862-874.

Heinks-Maldonado, T.H., Mathalon, D.H., Houde, J.F., Gray, M., Faustman, W.O., and Ford, J.M. (2007). Relationship of imprecise corollary discharge in schizophrenia to auditory hallucinations. Arch Gen Psychiatry 64, 286-296.

Ito, M. (2008). Control of mental activities by internal models in the cerebellum. Nat Rev Neurosci 9, 304-313.

Karniel, A. (2002). Three creatures named 'forward model'. Neural Networks 15, 305-307.

Max, L., Guenther, F.H., Gracco, V.L., Ghosh, S.S., and Wallace, M.E. (2004). Unstable or insufficiently activated internal models and feedback-biased motor control as sournces of dysfluency: A theoretical model of stuttering. Contemporary Issue in Communication Science and Disorders 31, 105-122.

Miall, R.C. (2003). Connecting mirror neurons and forward models. Neuroreport 14, 2135-2137.

Shadmehr, R., and Krakauer, J.W. (2008). A computational neuroanatomy for motor control. Exp Brain Res 185, 359-381.

Tourville, J.A., Reilly, K.J., and Guenther, F.H. (2008). Neural mechanisms underlying auditory feedback control of speech. Neuroimage 39, 1429-1443.

van Wassenhove, V., Grant, K.W., and Poeppel, D. (2005). Visual speech speeds up the neural processing of auditory speech. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 102, 1181-1186.

Wolpert, D., Ghahramani, Z., & Jordan, M. (1995). An internal model for sensorimotor integration Science, 269 (5232), 1880-1882 DOI: 10.1126/science.7569931

Wolpert, D.M., Doya, K., and Kawato, M. (2003). A unifying computational framework for motor control and social interaction. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 358, 593-602.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cognitive Neuropsychology -- New Editor and free access to TB highlighted article

A few days ago I highlighted an article that appeared in Cognitive Neuropsychology. As a result of this, the Cognitive Neuropsychology has made the article available free of charge: click here to access it.

It is worth noting that Cognitive Neuropsychology is now under new editorial guidance, that of Brenda Rapp. The journal was founded by Max Coltheart in 1984 and was (and perhaps remains) arguably the main outlet for traditional cognitive neuropsychological research. Beginning under the guidance of Alfonso Caramazza (the journal's second editor) and now with more force under Brenda Rapp, the journal has expanded its mission beyond traditional patient-based work to include brain imaging and other methods. Brenda summed up the journal's mission succinctly: "the goals: cognitive, the methods: neural" Her entire editorial can be found here. Below is an excerpt:

... the particular insight that was critical in creating the journal's unique identity amongst other cognitively oriented journals was the understanding that when “wishing to test theories concerning how some general mental activity is normally carried out, (researchers) need not confine themselves to investigations of those whose competence in this activity is normal” (Coltheart, 1984). This notion formed the basis of the journal's focus on research involving neuropsychological cases to develop and test theories of normal cognition. However, in recent years, the increasing sophistication of methods for the collection and analysis of neural data has allowed a broader range of neural evidence to be brought to bear on cognitive questions, making this an appropriate moment to expand upon the insight that neuropsychological data can be brought to bear on questions of cognition. Thus, consistent with the neuropsychological character of the journal and changes in direction already initiated by Alfonso Caramazza (the journal's second editor), the journal's Scope and Aims have now been expanded to promote research based on a broader understanding of the neuropsychological approach. This broader understanding includes not only methods based on brain pathology, but also on neural recording, neural stimulation or brain imaging. In other words, the journal will publish research that is not limited to the study of brain-lesioned individuals but also includes neurologically-intact adults, children or even non-human animals, as long as the methods involve some type of neural manipulation or measurement and the findings make an explicit and theoretically sophisticated contribution to our understanding of normal human cognition.