Thursday, October 20, 2011

Assistant/Associate/Full Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders

The University of Texas at Dallas invites applications for a tenure-stream faculty position in the School of Behavioral and Brain SciencesWe seek an outstanding scholar whose research program in the neurobiology of communication disorders will complement and enhance the behavioral, physiologicalclinical, and technology-focused investigations ongoing at the UT-Dallas Callier Center for Communication DisordersResponsibilities include research, graduate-level teaching, and mentoring doctoralstudents and postdoctoral fellowsApplicants should hold a PhD in a relevant field and an established or promising research program focusing on neurobiological aspects of communication disorders.
The UT-Dallas Callier Center for Communication Disorders is one of four centers in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, which offers PhD programs inCommunication Sciences and Disorders, Cognition and Neuroscience and Psychological Sciences. The School has an established tradition of interdisciplinary research as well as collaborations with investigators at the UT Southwestern Medical Center, located adjacent to the Callier Center's Dallas site. Enrollment, facultyfacilities and research expenditures are expanding rapidly at University of Texas at Dallas, which boasts one of the state's most academically talented student bodies.
The University of Texas at Dallas is an Equal OpportunityIAffirmative Action employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, citizenship status, Vietnam era or special disabled veteran's statusor sexual orientation. Indication of gender and ethnic origin for affirmative action purposes is requested as part of the application process but is not required for consideration. Review of applications will begin January 1,2012and will continue until the position is filled; the starting date is September 12012To apply for this position, applicants should submit (a) their current curriculum vitae, (b) a letter of interest (including research interests), and (c) letters of recommendation from (or the names and contact information for) at least five professional references via the ONLINE APPLICATION FORM (
Upon submitting their preferred email address, applicants will receive instructions to access a personalized application profile website. School hiring officials will receive notification when application materials are posted and are available for review.

Vicki Carlisle
Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost
800 W Campbell Road, AD23
Richardson, TX 75080-3021
Phone: 972-883-6751| Fax: 972-883-2276
The University of Texas at Dallas

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


The Center for Language Science (CLS) at Pennsylvania State University ( invites applications for an anticipated postdoctoral position. We are seeking a candidate who has extensive language neuroscience experience, particularly with fMRI methods, and who would like to develop expertise on bilingual language processing. The position will include interaction with CLS faculty and students and the larger Penn State neuroscience community (see and towards developing fMRI expertise among students and faculty and creating potential collaborative projects. The successful candidate will benefit from a highly interactive group of faculty whose interests include bilingual language processing, second language acquisition in children and adults, and language contact. Applicants with interests in these topics and with an interest in extending their expertise within experimental psycholinguistics and cognitive neuroscience are particularly welcome to apply. There is no expectation that applicants will have had prior experience in research on bilingualism but previous fMRI expertise is critical.

The CLS is home to a cross-disciplinary research program that includes a new NSF training program, Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE): Bilingualism, mind, and brain: An interdisciplinary program in cognitive psychology, linguistics, and cognitive neuroscience. The program provides training in research on bilingualism that includes an international perspective and that exploits opportunities for collaborative research conducted with one of our international partner sites in the UK (Bangor, Wales), Germany (Leipzig), Spain (Granada and Tarragona), The Netherlands (Nijmegen), Sweden (Lund) and China (Hong Kong and Beijing) and in conjunction with our two domestic partner sites at Haskins Labs and the VL2 Science of Learning Center at Gallaudet University. The successful postdoctoral candidate will have an opportunity to engage in collaborative research within the Center's international network.

Questions about faculty research interests may be directed to relevant core training faculty: Psychology: Judith Kroll, Ping Li, Janet van Hell, and Dan Weiss;Spanish: Rena Torres Cacoullos, Giuli Dussias, Chip Gerfen, John Lipski, and Karen Miller; Linguistics:  Nola Stephens; Communication Sciences and Disorders:  Carol Miller; German: Carrie Jackson, Mike Putnam, and Richard Page. Administrative questions can be directed to the Director of the Center for Language Science, Judith Kroll: More information about the Center for Language Science (CLS), about the PIRE program, and faculty research programs can be found at or

The initial appointment will be for one year, with a strong possibility of renewal for the next year. Salary and benefits follow NSF/NIH guidelines. The search is open to all eligible candidates regardless of citizenship.
Applicants should send a CV, several reprints or preprints, and a statement of research interests. This statement should indicate two or more core faculty members as likely primary and secondary mentors and should describe the candidate's goals for research and training during a postdoctoral position, including previous fMRI experience and directions in which the candidate would like to develop his/her expertise in the language science of bilingualism. Applicants should also provide names of three recommenders and arrange for letters of recommendation to be sent separately.

Application materials should be sent electronically to  For fullest consideration, all materials should be received by December 1, 2011. The appointment can begin any time between February 1, 2012 and June 1, 2012. We encourage applications from individuals of diverse backgrounds.  Penn State is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity and the diversity of its workforce.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

University of California, Irvine -- Junior Faculty Position in Cognitive Neuroscience

Subject to budgetary authorization, the Department of Cognitive Sciences ( at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) has available a tenuretrack position at the Assistant Professor level in cognitive neuroscience. Of particular interest are researchers who employ a multi‐method approach to understand the computational and neural organization of speech and language processes or higher‐level perception or action. The successful candidate will interact with a dynamic and growing community in cognitive, computational, and neural sciences within the Cognitive Science Department, the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, and the newly founded Center for Language Science. Irvine is located in Orange County on the Southern California coastline between Los Angeles and San Diego.

The online application should include: A cover letter indicating primary research interests, CV, three recent publications, and 3‐5 letters of recommendation. Candidates should apply online at:

Review of applications will commence on December 1. Inquiries about the application process or position should be sent to:

The University of California, Irvine is an equal opportunity employer committed to excellence through diversity. For you language folks, it is worth pointing out that UCI has excellent groups in the audition (Center for Hearing Research), cognitive neuroscience, and a growing language/speech group:

Greg Hickok - Neuroscience of Language
Kent Johnson - Philosophy of Language
Lisa Pearl - Computational models of language acquistion
Kourosh Saberi - Audition, Neuroscience of auditory/speech perception
Steve Small - Neuroscience of Language
Jon Sprouse - Experimental approaches to syntactic theory, psycholinguistics
Ramesh Srinivasan - EEG, large scale networks, speech processing
Fan-Gang Zeng - Speech perception, auditory disorders, prosthetic hearing

Monday, October 10, 2011

Do we love our iPhones literally? I really don't care

There has been a huge backlash in the scientific community and blogosphere over a recent New York Times op-ed piece by Martin Lindstrom discussing a functional MRI study of the brain response to hearing and seeing an iPhone ringing.

Purported finding: insula activation.
Interpretation: we love our iPhones, literally.
Why this interpretation?: because insula activation has previously been associated with feelings of love.

Obviously a dubious interpretation and certainly a highly questionable piece of editorial decision making on the part of the Times. Not surprisingly, the response has been vigorous.

Russ Poldrack, a respected UT Austin prof, called it "complete crap" and wrote a letter to the editor of the Times to such effect. The letter, which was co-signed by 44 neuroscientists, was published recently. Poldrack correctly pointed out the flawed logic of the claim and further noted that the insula activates for all kinds of things. I would have signed it too and I'd like to extend my thanks to Russ for taking the time to write the letter.

Tal Yarkoni, a UC Boulder post doc, wrote, "the New York Times blows it big time on brain imaging."

The Neurocritic blog was all over this one too, as was science writer and blogger David Dobbs who wins the prize for the most unrestrained headline: fMRI Shows My Bullshit Detector Going Ape Shit Over iPhone Lust

It might surprise you that I'm not going to jump on the bandwagon here. Yes, I agree the claim is complete crap and yes my bullshit detector when ape shit and yes I think the Times editorial staff clearly could use an education on functional imaging. But I'm not too worried about this op-ed piece or the blathering of a pseudoscientist like Lindstrom. Why? Because it is so clearly ridiculous that the most harm it will do is discredit the content of the NYT, stir up some debates about iPhones vs. Androids, and maybe cause the public to question functional MRI a bit more (not a bad thing). Importantly, it will have no impact on scientific progress.

What worries me more, a lot more, are claims by serious, respected scientists that sound reasonable, but are based on the same flawed or weak logic. These claims fly under the radar, go unchallenged and DO impact scientific progress.

Consider another NYT piece published in 2006 called "Cells that Read Minds" by respected science writer Sandra Blakeslee. The article is an excellent summary of the state of scientific thought regarding the function of mirror neurons (you KNEW this was going to come back to mirror neurons, didn't you?!). Let me be clear, what follows is not a critique of Blakeslee, who very accurately summarized the field, but of the logic of the claims made by her sources, respected scientists like Giacomo Rizzolatti, Vittorio Gallese, Marco Iacoboni, and others.

To illustrate my point I'll quote from the NYT piece which quotes Iacoboni:
"When you see me perform an action - such as picking up a baseball - you automatically simulate the action in your own brain," said Dr. Marco Iacoboni, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who studies mirror neurons. ... "you understand my action because you have in your brain a template for that action based on your own movements.

"You automatically simulate the action" -- this claim comes from the observation that when you watch (some!) actions (not all!) you activate motor-related areas. This is an inference, not a fact. Yes, motor areas do activate during perception, in some experiments, under some conditions. But does this mean that actions are "automatically simulated"? Or are there other possibilities? Iacoboni's own highly cited paper in the journal Science, which showed activation of the motor system during observation of actions also activated just as robustly during the observation of grey rectangle with a dot in it. Does this mean that the motor system "automatically simulates" grey rectangles with dots in them? And the region that was activated was Broca's area, long known to activate during motor action, particularly speech, but also under a variety of other behaviors and tasks, just like the insula.

" understand action because you have in your brain a template for that action based on your own movements." To use Poldrack's words, "this kind of reasoning is well known to be flawed." Just because a region previously shown to be associated with a given function (action execution) also activates for another function (action perception), doesn't mean it is doing the same thing for both functions or that the activation is causing the behavior under investigation (understanding). More to the point, the activation of a brain region in such a study tells us nothing directly about what is causing the activation. Example: in the early days of fMRI we were piloting a visual perception task and found very highly correlated and wildly significant activity in the frontal pole during visual stimulation. Using standard logic, this would indicate that the frontal poles were critically involved in low-level vision, an odd finding. What we later discovered was that the mirror that allowed the subject to view the screen was titled down too much so that every time we presented a stimulus the subject had to look up, which moved their head just enough to generate a perfectly correlated change in the signal in the portion of the brain that moved the most, the frontal pole.

Notice that the original interpretation of mirror neurons based on observations in the monkey, that cells fire both during action observation and action execution, is no less flawed logically. There is a correlation, but correlation does not imply causation.

Here's another quote from Blakeslee's piece that discusses the work of Christian Keysers and that may sound suspiciously similar to the iPhone claim.
Social emotions like guilt, shame, pride, embarrassment, disgust and lust are based on a uniquely human mirror neuron system found in a part of the brain called the insula, Dr. Keysers said. In a study not yet published, he found that when people watched a hand go forward to caress someone and then saw another hand push it away rudely, the insula registered the social pain of rejection. Humiliation appears to be mapped in the brain by the same mechanisms that encode real physical pain, he said.

Despite similar logical flaws apparent in the 2006 piece, no one seemed to notice, unlike in the recent NYT op-ed case. There was no letter to the editor signed by a couple dozen neuroscientists, no uproar that I can find regarding the ridiculously flawed logic of the claims, only mindless acceptance or indifference, except for a nice piece in by Alison Gopnik who called mirror neurons a myth and suggested that they are the "'left brain/right brain' of the 21st century". This critique has been largely ignored if we take the proliferation of mirror neuron claims as evidence.

This should trouble you. How is it that flawed logic in one domain is obvious and creates a dramatic scientific reaction, while goes largely unnoticed or even rubber stamped in another? It comes down to intuition and bias. We intuitively know that a single fMRI study cannot tell us whether or not we love our iPhones. Further, we are biased by the source: one man's claim based on an unpublished study is easy to dismiss. With mirror neurons the claim seems reasonable, intuitive, and (deceptively) simple. And it is grounded in hardcore neuroscience methods, recording from single cells, with findings reported in the best journals by established, respected scientists. Given such a bias, we don't think about it as hard and are more willing to overlook or just fail to notice the logical flaws.

I don't worry about the crazy claims. They will take care of themselves. It's the ones that make sense that worry me the most and that require all of us to think about a little more carefully.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

UCSF Post doc


The Speech Neuroscience Research Group at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) is seeking two postdoctoral-fellows interested in understanding the organization of human speech processing and the neural basis of speech motor control.

UCSF is a world-class research institution with a wide array of scanner facilities that includes MRI (both 3T and 7T systems) as well as a 275-channel whole-head MEG/EEG scanner. There is also a large and rapidly expanding program of research using high-density invasive electrocorticography (ECoG) recordings from neurosurgical patients.

Two postdoctoral positions are open in the labs of Professors Edward Chang and John Houde. Professor Chang’s lab focuses on the basic neural representations of acoustic, phonetic, and lexical information in human cortex. Professor Houde’s lab investigates the neural basis of speech motor control. The research focus of the lab is investigating the neural basis of feedback processing in speech production, but other ongoing projects in the lab include studies of sequential speech production, spasmodic dysphonia and stuttering. Major experimental methods include invasive electrocorticography (ECoG), MEG source analysis, time-frequency analysis and simultaneous EEG-fMRI.

The positions are for two years and offer a competitive salary funded by the NIH and NSF. Ideal applicants will have experience with programming (especially in the Matlab environment), and have strong backgrounds in time series analysis, signal processing, control theory, phonetics, and cognitive neuroscience.

To apply, please submit a curriculum vita, cover letter, two references, and representative publications to Professors Edward Chang ( ) and John Houde ( ).

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Programmer position: NYU Neuroscience of Language Laboratory

A full or part-time Programmer position is available at the NYU Neuroscience of Language Laboratory (, available immediately. Responsibilities include both the development of MEG and EEG data analysis routines and functioning as support personnel for the lab. A strong background in statistics and Matlab are essential. Prior experience with psychological experiments and electrophysiology is preferred.

We are looking for a full-time person but will also consider an excellent match on a part-time basis. Salary commensurate with experience. To apply, please email CV and names of references to Prof. Liina Pylkkänen (

Monkeys, and their auditory cortex neurons, can categorize speech sounds

An interesting new study by Tsunda, Lee, and Cohen (2011) has found that rhesus monkeys show categorical perception of a speech sound continuum (dad to bad) and further that the population response of neurons in anterior lateral belt region of auditory cortex appears to reflect the categories. However, the average activity of the auditory cortex cells did not predict response choice. A previous study from the Cohen lab (Russ et al. 2008) found that neurons in ventral prefrontal cortex did correlate with the monkey's behavioral response in a similar speech discrimination task.

So what have we learned? We have yet more evidence that you don't need a motor speech system to perform well on a subtle speech perception task involving minimal pair place of articulation contrasts (/b/ vs. /d/). We can add monkeys to the list of critters who can do it. Second we learned that auditory cortex seems to code the categories, at least in the population response. The decision in such tasks, however, is not read off of the auditory response directly, but is mediated by prefrontal regions. This fits will with human stroke and imaging data suggesting a similar division of labor: auditory-related areas code speech categories while frontal regions are critical for task-related decision making, at least of these sorts of tasks.

This set of papers is definitely worth a look...


Russ, B., Orr, L., & Cohen, Y. (2008). Prefrontal Neurons Predict Choices during an Auditory Same-Different Task Current Biology, 18 (19), 1483-1488 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2008.08.054

Tsunada, J., Lee, J., & Cohen, Y. (2011). Representation of speech categories in the primate auditory cortex Journal of Neurophysiology, 105 (6), 2634-2646 DOI: 10.1152/jn.00037.2011

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Asst. Prof. job in Neuroling: University of Texas at Austin, Department of Linguistics
Job Location: Texas, USA
Rank or Title: Assistant Professor
Linguistic Field(s): Neurolinguistics LL Issue: 22.3787
Date Posted: 27-Sep-2011

 Job Description: The Department of Linguistics seeks applications for a tenure-track position, with a specialization in the study of language and the brain. We have a preference for individuals with several years of experience beyond the Ph.D. The successful candidate will have a strong track record of research in how language is processed, represented, learned, and/or understood. We particularly seek candidates who have investigated linguistic processing using neuoroimaging methods and who will provide leadership in the use of such techniques within the department. For information on the imaging facilities available at The University of Texas at Austin, see the web site of the Imaging Research Center: In 2013, the Department of Linguistics will be moving into a newly-constructed building that will allow excellent laboratory space within the department. 

Duties include: (a) teaching undergraduate and graduate courses; (b) directing thesis and dissertation research; (c) conducting original research and publication; (d) obtaining external funding to support a strong research program; (e) advising undergraduate and graduate students; and (f) performing department, college and institutional service.

 The successful candidate should have the Ph.D. in hand by August 20, 2012. He or she should have documented excellence or potential for excellence as a teacher, researcher, advisor, and leader, and a strong commitment to working collaboratively with other faculty members within the department.

 To apply, please send a letter of application, curriculum vitae, three letters of recommendation, evidence of your past teaching performance or teaching potential, a list of courses you are prepared to teach, and samples of published or other written work to the application address below. Electronic applications may be submitted to Screening of all application materials will begin November 15, 2011, although applications will be accepted until the position is filled. For inquires regarding this position, please email Richard P. Meier, Chair, at 

This position is pending budgetary approval. A background check will be conducted on the successful applicant. The University of Texas at Austin is an AA/EEO employer. 

Application Deadline: 15-Nov-2011 Open until filled Application Address: Search Committee Department of Linguistics University of Texas at Austin 1 University Station/B5100 Austin, TX 78712-0198 USA

 Application Email:

 Contact Information: Professor Richard P. Meier Phone: 512 471 1701 Fax: 512 471 4340