Thursday, March 31, 2011

Faculty positions: Dept. of Psychology - Univ. of S. Carolina

The Department of Psychology invites applications for two tenure-track Assistant Professors with research interests in cognitive neuroscience. The appointment begins August 16, 2011.

Candidates must have demonstrated the ability to conduct research in neuroscience that augments and complements our existing technical expertise in brain stimulation, event related potentials, and magnetic resonance imaging using our 3T Siemens Trio (see for more information), and behavioral expertise in an area of cognitive neuroscience, including but not limited to language, attention, and perception. A Ph.D. or MD in a relevant discipline is required, as successful applicants are expected to lead their own research program and teach. Applicants must demonstrate potential to acquire external grant funding. Teaching and postdoctoral experience is strongly preferred. Salary is commensurate with experience.

Applicants should submit a letter describing their interests and credentials, curriculum vitae, statements of research and teaching interests, accomplishments, three letters of recommendation and copies of selected publications.

Electronic application submissions are preferred and should be emailed to with Cognitive Neuroscience Search in the subject line. Paper submissions may be sent to:

Cognitive Neuroscience Search
Department of Psychology
University of South Carolina
Columbia, SC 29208

For full consideration, all application materials must be received no later than May 15, 2011. Further inquiries may be addressed to Professor Chris Rorden at

The University of South Carolina is an affirmative action, equal opportunity employer. Minorities and women are encouraged to apply. The University of South Carolina does not discriminate in educational or employment opportunities or decisions for qualified persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation or veteran status.

RAN – 03/17/11

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Career Development Fellow (Postdoctoral position) - MRC CBSU Cambridge, UK

Reference: IRC18228

The MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit (CBSU) is an internationally
renowned research institute with state-of-the-art cognitive neuroscience
facilities, including a research dedicated 3T Siemens Trio MRI scanner and
306-channel Elekta Neuromag MEG system.

Applications are invited for a post-doctoral position to work within a
research programme led by Dr Matthew Davis investigating neural systems
for the perception and comprehension of spoken language. The research will
use behavioural and functional imaging methods (fMRI, MEG/EEG) to explore
spoken language processing in healthy, adult participants. You should hold
a PhD in cognitive neuroscience or related field, including experience of
one or more neuroimaging methods. A strong computational or statistical
background is desirable and/or experience of speech signal processing and

This is a three year training and development postdoctoral position. The
starting salary will be in the range of £26,022 - £31,758 per annum,
depending upon qualifications and experience. We offer a flexible pay
and reward policy, 30 days annual leave entitlement, and an optional MRC
final salary Pension Scheme. On site car and bicycle parking is available.

For informal enquiries, contact Matthew Davis by email:

Applications are handled by the RCUK Shared Services Centre; to apply
please visit our job board at
and complete an online application form.
Applicants who would like to receive this advert in an alternative format
(e.g. large print, Braille, audio or hard copy), or who are unable to
apply online should contact us by telephone on 01793 867003, please quote
reference number IRC18228.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Department Head, Speech, Language Hearing Sciences - Purdue

Applications and nominations are invited for the position of Head of the Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences in the College of Health and Human Sciences at Purdue University. The position will be available January 1, 2012 with a five-year renewable term, reporting to the Dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences. We seek an internationally recognized researcher who will provide leadership, vision, and management in curriculum, personnel, and faculty/staff development as well as serve as an advocate for the Department to the College, University, and larger community.

The successful candidate will be an academic leader and scholar with a strong commitment to the research, teaching, and clinical missions of the Department. Applicants should have scholarly credentials commensurate with the rank of Tenured Full Professor. Field of specialization is open. Desirable attributes include a strong record of published research and external funding as well as prior experience in academic administration, graduate education, and development. The candidate selected will be someone who values and promotes diversity.

The Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences is a diverse and collegial department with 22 research/tenure track faculty and 15 clinical faculty. Research is conducted in the areas of Speech-Language Pathology, Audiology, Linguistics, Neuroscience and Speech & Hearing Sciences. The Department is highly interdisciplinary, with ongoing collaborations with many of Purdue’s other departments (e.g., Biomedical Engineering, Biological Sciences, Psychological Sciences) and programs/centers (e.g., Linguistics, Integrative Neuroscience, Center on Aging and the Life Course, Purdue Autism Network, Ray W. Herrick Acoustic Laboratories). The Department has accredited clinical programs in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, which are ranked 2nd and 9th respectively by U.S. News & World Report. It awards Bachelors, Masters, Au.D. and Ph.D. degrees and currently has approximately 160 undergraduate majors, 85 SLP Masters and Au.D. students, and 20 Ph.D. students. The Au.D. is offered jointly with Indiana University School of Medicine, Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, in Indianapolis.

Review of applications will begin August 1, 2011, but applications will continue to be accepted until an exceptional leader is selected. Applicants should submit their curriculum vitae, a letter of interest indicating relevant experience and qualifications, and a list of three references. Materials are to be sent electronically to Jane Fenters . Purdue is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action employer fully committed to achieving a diverse workforce.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Postdoctoral Opportunities Down Under - de Zubicaray Lab

Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards (DECRAs)

The Australian Research Council (ARC) has announced a special initiative involving 3-year funding of post-doctoral researchers that provides both salary and project support. I would be interested in hearing from potential applicants with an interest in neuroimaging language production and comprehension. More information can be found at our lab wiki and at the ARC website

Assoc Prof Greig de Zubicaray
School of Psychology
University of Queensland
Brisbane, QLD 4072 AUSTRALIA

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Postdoctoral Position in the Cognitive Neuroscience of Speech - U of Iowa

The Dept. of Neurosurgery and the Dept. of Psychology at the University of Iowa have an opening for one post-doctoral trainee beginning after June 1, 2011 working on the cognitive neuroscience of speech perception. The appointment will be for up to three years. We encourage applicants with doctoral degrees in neuroscience, psychology, and cognitive science, as well as linguistics and computer science and related fields. The applicant will be jointly mentored by Dr. Bob McMurray of the Dept. of Psychology and Dr. Hiroyuki Oya of the Dept. of Neurosurgery and will spearhead a collaborative research project using intracranial recording on awake, behaving humans to test theoretical models of the sensory processes involved in speech perception. The trainee will also have opportunities to pursue research on speech perception using ERP, fMRI and/or eye-tracking. The ideal applicant will have a background in theoretical models of speech perception, comfort using sophisticated computational techniques for data analysis and/or modeling, and a background in neuroscience. Applicant must be highly motivated and should have skills in topics relevant to this field, skills like statistical modeling of high-dimensional data, time series analysis, knowledge about psycho- and physical acoustics, computational modeling, and electrophysiological recording. However, strong applicants from other backgrounds are also encouraged to apply. The applicant will be embedded in a rich community studying language and speech perception at multiple levels, with multiple scholars in Psychology, Neurosurgery and Communication Sciences and Disorders. Please send a statement of interest, a CV, and three letters of reference to Applications will be considered immediately and will be reviewed until the position is filled.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Four Post-Bac positions at U Maryland, College Park

The Department of Linguistics at the University of Maryland, College Park, is looking to fill up to FOUR full-time positions for post-baccalaureate researchers. Starting date for all positions is Summer or Fall 2011. Salary is competitive, with benefits included. The positions would be ideal for individuals with a BA degree who are interested in gaining significant research experience in a very active lab as preparation for a research career. Applicants must be US or Canadian citizens or permanent residents, and should have completed a BA or BS degree by the time of appointment. Previous experience in an area related to the positions is required, and relevant research experience is preferred.

Applicants may request to be considered for all four positions. Review of applications for all positions will begin immediately, and will continue until the positions are filled. For best consideration for positions #1-#3, completed applications should be received by April 21st.

Positions #1-#2: Baggett Research Fellowships 2011-2012

One-year Baggett Fellowships are full-time positions intended for individuals with a BA or BS degree who are interested in gaining significant research experience in an active interdisciplinary environment before pursuing graduate study in some area of linguistics or cognitive science. Fellows can pursue research with one or more faculty mentors in linguistics, cognitive (neuro-)science of language, or computational modeling of language. One or two fellowship positions are available for the 2011-2012 year. Positions are for one year and are not renewable. Salary is competitive, with benefits included. Contact person: Dr Naomi Feldman, Further details, including faculty mentor list, at:

Position #3: Research Assistant in Psycholinguistics/Cognitive Neuroscience

This person will take a leading role in research projects in psycholinguistics and cognitive neuroscience of language. The person will be involved in all aspects of the design, testing and analysis of studies of language comprehension in adults, using behavioral and neuroscientific techniques, including ERP and MEG brain recordings (training provided). The person will also play a key role in the management of an active lab group and will contribute to Maryland's IGERT training program in Language Science ( Previous experience in linguistics and/or psycholinguistics is preferred. The ability to interact comfortably with a wide variety of people (and machines) is a distinct advantage. The position is for a one year initial appointment, with the possibility of extension beyond that time. For more information contact Dr Colin Phillips,, Application requirements are the same as for the Baggett Fellowships.

Position #4: MEG Laboratory Manager

This person will play a leading role in the operation of a magnetoencephalography (MEG) facility that is housed within the Dept of Linguistics and serves researchers from many departments, for studies on language, vision, memory, reading, audition, and kinesiology. The person will be trained as an expert user of the facility, will help to guide and train other users, will coordinate and enhance resources for the experimental paradigms in use in the lab, and will manage the smooth daily operation of the lab. The person will also have opportunities to participate in and/or lead research projects, and participate in a range of other intellectual activities in language and cognitive neuroscience. Previous laboratory experience is preferred, and the ability to interact comfortably with a wide variety of people and technologies is strongly preferred. Prior experience with MEG or other electrophysiological techniques is NOT required. The position is for a one year initial appointment, with the possibility of extension beyond that time. For more information contact lab co-directors Dr Colin Phillips (Linguistics, or Dr Jonathan Simon (Electrical Engineering, Applicants are the same as for the Baggett Fellowships.

Applicants for any of the 4 positions should submit a cover letter outlining relevant background and interests (including potential faculty mentors), a current CV, and the names and contact information for 3 potential referees. Letters are not needed as part of the initial application. Applicants should also send a writing sample. All application materials should be submitted electronically. Positions #1-#2 - Naomi Feldman ( NOTE: Put "Baggett Fellowship" in the subject line. Positions #3-#4 - Colin Phillips ( NOTE: Put "Research Assistantship" in the subject line. Prospective applicants should fel free to send a preliminary letter of interest to Dr Feldman or Dr Phillips.

The Department of Linguistics at the University of Maryland is committed to an interdisciplinary approach to the science of language. Its members are engaged in research on a wide variety of areas of language, ranging from acoustics to semantics, in children and adults, normal and disordered populations, and covering many different languages. The department's Cognitive Neuroscience of Language Lab is a large shared resource that incorporates facilities for behavioral testing of infants, children and adults, two eye-tracking labs, an ERP lab and a whole-head MEG facility. The department plays a leading role in the university's vibrant language science community, which numbers 200 faculty, researchers, and graduate students across 10 departments, and is affiliated with the Neuroscience and Cognitive Science Program and the new Maryland Neuroimaging Center.

The University of Maryland is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunities Title IX employer. Women and minority candidates are especially encouraged to apply.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Society for the Neurobiology of Language Membership

Growing out of the success of the Neurobiology of Language Conference (NLC) we founded the Society for the Neurobiology of Language (SNL) in 2010. The goal of the Society is to foster progress in understanding the neurobiological basis for language via the interdisciplinary exchange of ideas, and organizing the annual meeting is a major part of this effort.

We are happy to announce that we have now established the mechanism for becoming a member of the Society and we would like to invite you to join. The benefits of membership include free access to post to the Society newsletter (coming soon), reduced annual meeting (NLC) registration fees, the ability to sponsor an abstract to NLC, Society nomination and voting rights, the ability to apply for travel awards (watch for future announcements), and of course the prestige of being an official SNL member.

We have established a membership dues structure, which will help pay for the costs of the annual meeting (registration doesn't cover the entire cost): Regular member, $100; Post-docs, $50; Students, $25. However, you will be able to sign up now, and for the next week or two, without having to pay your dues. We will ask you to pay your dues later if you plan to submit an abstract to the meeting. Membership will be renewable annually.

To register follow this link:

If you visit the SNL website ( you will note that we have no logo. We would like one. So, we are holding a LOGO CONTEST. The winner will receive free registration for the 2011 annual meeting, so start thinking about your designs! More details on how and when to submit will be provided soon.

-Greg Hickok on behalf of the SNL Board:

Chair: Gregory Hickok, Ph.D., University of California, Irvine, USA
Treasurer: Cynthia Thompson, Ph.D, Northwestern University, Chicago, USA
Secretary: Murray Grossman, M.D., Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA
Meeting Liaison: Laura Menenti, Ph.D., University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK

Chair-Elect: Marta Kutas, Ph.D., The University of California, San Diego, USA
Treasurer-Elect: Vincent L. Gracco, Ph.D., McGill University, Montréal, Canada
Secretary-Elect: Stefan Heim, Ph.D, Institute of Medicine Research Center Juelich, Jülich, GermanyMeeting Liaison-Elect: Manuel Carreiras, Ph.D, Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language, San Sebastian, Spain

Past Chair: Steven L. Small, Ph.D, M.D., University of California, Irvine, USA
Past Treasurer: Jeffrey Binder, M.D., Medical College of Wisconsin, USA
Past Secretary: Howard Nusbaum, Ph.D., The University of Chicago, USA
Past Meeting Liaison: Pascale Tremblay, Ph.D., University of Trento, Trento, Italy

Thursday, March 10, 2011

On the relation between language and music

Much has been said on the relation between music and language. Most of it arguing for common computational foundations:

...syntax in language and music share a common set of processes (instantiated in frontal brain area) - Patel, 2003

...some aspects of structural integration in language and music appear to be shared -Fedorenko, et al., 2009

All formal differences between language and music are a consequence of differences in their fundamental building blocks (arbitrary pairings of sound and meaning in the case of language; pitch-classes and pitch-class combinations in the case of music).† In all other respects, language and music are identical. -Katz & Pesetsky, 2011

This claim predicts that there should be overlap in the brain regions involved in processing both language and music. Surprisingly, no one has assessed this directly in the same subjects. Until now.

A new paper in the Journal of Neuroscience reports a study in which participants listened to either sentences or melodic stimuli during fMRI scanning (Rogalsky et al., 2011). Overlap between the two conditions was, in fact, observed, but only in relatively early auditory areas (not surprisingly, given that both stimuli are acoustic). No overlap was found in regions thought to be involved in structural processing, i.e., Broca's area and the anterior temporal lobe. Language activated a more lateral temporal lobe network, while music activated a dorsomedial pattern in the temporal lobes. Broca's area, a prime candidate for structural processing according to many, was not reliably activated by either stimulus class, once acoustic envelope information was controlled. Even within the region of overlap in upstream auditory areas, pattern classification analysis revealed that music and language activated a different pattern of activity.

What does this mean? Despite the recent hype, I don't think structural processing music and language have all that much in common, at least in terms of neural resources. I think previous behavioral and electrophysiological evidence for shared resources has more to do the tasks employed (typically violation studies) than normal structural processing itself.

Fedorenko E, Patel A, Casasanto D, Winawer J, & Gibson E (2009). Structural integration in language and music: evidence for a shared system. Memory & cognition, 37 (1), 1-9 PMID: 19103970

Patel, A. (2003). Language, music, syntax and the brain Nature Neuroscience, 6 (7), 674-681 DOI: 10.1038/nn1082

Rogalsky, C., Rong, F., Saberi, K., & Hickok, G. (2011). Functional anatomy of language and music perception: Temporal and structural factors investigated using fMRI. Journal of Neuroscience, 31(10): 3843-3852

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Action understanding "from the inside"? Or is it just sensory learning?

As I noted previously, Rizzolatti and colleagues have backed off the claim that mirror neurons enable action understanding via strict motor simulation. Instead they emphasize that the really important mirror neurons code the "goals of the action":

By matching individual movements, mirror processing provides a representation of body part movements that might serve various functions (for example, imitation), but is devoid of any specific cognitive importance per se. By contrast, through matching the goal of the observed motor act with a motor act that has the same goal, the observer is able to understand what the agent is doing. – Rizzolatti & Sinigaglia, 2010, Nature Rev. Neurosci., p. 269

(The shift in emphasis from movements to goals is actually problematic for the theory because one could argue that the goals of an action are sensory, e.g., in the case of speech the goal is to produce a sound. Therefore understanding is a sensory phenomenon. But that is not what I want to talk about here.)

They are also careful to point out that action recognition can be achieved using non-motoric means.

...the recognition of the motor behaviour of others can rely on the mere processing of its visual aspects. This processing is similar to that performed by the ‘ventral stream’ areas for the recognition of inanimate objects. It allows the labelling of the observed behaviour, but does not provide the observer with cues that are necessary for a real understanding of the conveyed message. – Rizzolatti & Sinigaglia, 2010, Nature Rev. Neurosci., p. 270

This "real understanding" comes "from the inside" as they say. But what does this mean? One interpretation, is that knowing how to perform an action allows one to predict the outcome of an observed action ahead of time, i.e., "I know what you are doing". As Marco Iacoboni writes in the context of watching sports,
We understand the players’ actions because we have a template in our brains for that action, a template based on our own movements. -Iacoboni, 2008, Mirroring People, p. 5

I think this is true to some extent. Experience performing an action can allow us to predict the consequences of that action when we observe someone else performing it. It is important to recognize, however, that this predictive coding isn't unique to the motor system. We can learn to predict the consequences of actions that we have never performed just by observing the action performed repeatedly.

For example, my dog is really good at this. He loves to play fetch, and after many exposures to viewing my throwing action, he can predict the direction of the ball's flight. Below is a video demonstrating this. There are 6 successive trials. Each starts with me holding the ball and my dog watching me intently. I then turn in some direction and make a throwing action in that direction. I don't actually release the ball to ensure that he is cueing off my actions and isn't just following the trajectory of the ball. As is clear from the video, he recognizes that I am making a throwing action and immediately responds by turning to run after it. Further, the direction in which he runs shows that he is correctly predicting where I planned to throw the ball. (Once he's on his way, I throw the ball so his chasing response isn't extinguished.) I should say that I don't normally throw the ball for him in random directions. It is usually in one general direction, yet he had not trouble with this task, even without any practice.

You can see in the last trial that he takes off running even before the forward motion of my arm. Similar experiments have been carried out in monkeys observing overhand throwing actions by a human. It was argued that the monkeys understood the action even though they can't make overhand throwing actions themselves. The dog example is even stronger though because they can't grasp or throw at all yet seem to understand throwing actions quite well.

This behavior is no surprise to owners of dogs who like to fetch, but it does illustrate the simple fact that predictive knowledge of "intention" does not have to come from the motor system. In fact, given that there is survival value in predicting the actions of prey or predators, some of which differ in terms of their motor repertoire compared to the observing animal, one could argue that prediction based on sensory learning is even more important than motor-based predictions when it comes to others' behaviors.

Rizzolatti, G., & Sinigaglia, C. (2010). The functional role of the parieto-frontal mirror circuit: interpretations and misinterpretations Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 11 (4), 264-274 DOI: 10.1038/nrn2805

Friday, March 4, 2011

RA position at Georgetown Brain and Language Lab

The Brain and Language Lab at Georgetown University, directed by Michael Ullman, investigates the biological and psychological bases of first and second language in normal and disordered children and adults, and the relations between language and other cognitive domains (primarily memory, music and motor function). The lab's members test their hypotheses using a set of complementary behavioral, neurological, neuroimaging (ERP, fMRI) and biological (genetic, endocrine, pharmacological) approaches. They are interested, first of all, in the normal acquisition and processing of language and non-language functions, and their neurocognitive variability as a function of factors such as genotype, hormone levels, sex, handedness, age, and learning context. Second, they investigate the breakdown and recovery of language and non-language functions in a variety of disorders, including Specific Language Impairment, autism, ADHD, dyslexia, Tourette syndrome, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, and aphasia. For more details on the Brain and Language Lab, please see

We are seeking a full-time Research Assistant/Lab Manager. The successful candidate will have the opportunity to be involved in a variety of projects, using a range of methodological approaches (see above). S/he will have primary or shared responsibility for various aspects of research and laboratory management, including a number of the following (depending on aptitude and experience): creating experimental stimuli; designing experiments; running experiments on different subject groups; performing statistical analyses; writing papers; helping manage the lab's computers; managing undergraduate assistants; and working with the laboratory director and other lab members in preparing and managing grants and IRB protocols. In general, s/he will work closely not only with Dr. Ullman, and with other RAs, PhD students, and postdocs in the lab, but also with our collaborators at Georgetown and other institutions.

Minimum requirements for the position include a Bachelor's degree (a Master's degree is a plus), with a significant amount of course-work or research experience in at least two and ideally three of the following: cognitive psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, computer science, and statistics. The following are *highly desirable*: experience with Windows, Linux, programming, and statistics. A strong math aptitude is a plus. The candidate must be extremely responsible, reliable, energetic, hard-working, organized, and efficient, and be able to work with a diverse group of people.

To allow for sufficient time to learn new skills and to be productive, candidates must be available to work for at least two years, and ideally for three. The successful candidate will be trained in a variety of the methods and approaches used in the lab, including (depending on the focus of his/her work, and ongoing lab projects) statistics, experimental design, and neuroimaging methods. The ideal start date is late spring or early summer 2011. Interested candidates should email Kaitlyn Litcofsky (at their CV and one or two publications or other writing samples, and have 3 recommenders email her their recommendations directly. Salary will be commensurate with experience and qualifications. The position, which includes health benefits, is contingent upon funding. Georgetown University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity employer.