Monday, August 31, 2015

Tenure Track Job at Northwestern University Department of Linguistics

The Department of Linguistics at Northwestern University seeks to fill a tenure-line position (open rank) with a start date of September 1, 2016. We are looking for candidates who pursue an integrated approach to the scientific study of language, utilizing experimental methods, corpus analysis, and/or computational modeling to inform linguistic theory and its applications. The candidate will join a vibrant interdisciplinary language sciences community including researchers from cognitive science, cognitive neuroscience, computer science, philosophy, psychology, and speech science.

We seek exceptional candidates with forward-looking research programs that hold the promise of future external funding. Applicants that wish to be considered for appointment at the rank of Associate Professor or Professor are expected to have a record of excellence in research and teaching, success in obtaining external funding, and to have held both internal and external leadership roles. 

To receive fullest consideration, applications should arrive by December 1, 2015. Candidates must hold a Ph.D. in Linguistics or a related field (e.g., Cognitive Neuroscience, Cognitive Science, Computer Science, Philosophy, Psychology, Speech and Hearing Sciences) by the start date. Please include a CV (including contact information), statements of research and teaching interests, reprints or other written work (including thesis chapters for ABD applicants), teaching evaluations (if available), and the names of three references (with their contact information). Please visit for online application instructions.

E-mail inquiries should be directed to Matt Goldrick, Chair ( Northwestern University is an Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action Employer of all protected classes including veterans and individuals with disabilities. Women and minorities are encouraged to apply. Hiring is contingent upon eligibility to work in the United States.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Stop talking about the "computer analogy" -- It was never a computer analogy!

From the very beginning cognitive scientists were clear that the analogy is the computer program not the computer itself.  Even Newell et al. made this point in their Logic Theorist paper.
Excerpt from The Myth of Mirror Neurons:
Newell and company were careful to point out that their theory does not imply that humans are digital computers, only that humans appear to be running a program similar to LT. 
We wish to emphasize that we are not using the computer as a crude analogy to human behavior—we are not comparing computer structures with brains, nor electrical relays with synapses. Our position is that the appropriate way to describe a piece of problem-solving behavior is in terms of a program: a specification of what the organism will do under varying environmental circumstances in terms of certain elementary information processes it is capable of performing. This assertion has nothing to do—directly—with computers. Such programs could be written (now that we have discovered how to do it) if computers had never existed.  A program is no more, and no less, an analogy to the behavior of an organism than is a differential equation to the behavior of the electrical circuit it describes. Digital computers come into the picture only because they can, by appropriate programming, be induced to execute the same sequences of information processes that humans execute when they are solving problems. Hence, as we shall see, these programs describe both human and machine problem solving at the level of information processes.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

POST-DOCTORAL FELLOWSHIP -- York University -- Bialystok lab

Ellen Bialystok 
Principal Investigator 

A post-doctoral position is available immediately to work on a new 2-year grant funded by NIH that examines the interaction between memory, aging, and bilingualism. The purpose is to identify the mechanism by which bilingualism protects memory and delays the onset of symptoms of dementia. The research includes both behavioral and imaging methods. The imaging will include fMRI, structural MRI, DTI, and resting state. The primary responsibility of the post-doc will be to lead the team on the imaging component, including task design, data acquisition, and analyses. A commitment for the full two years of the grant is required. 

The team includes Fergus Craik, Cheryl Grady, and Morris Freedman as well as several research assistants. The research will be conducted at York University in Toronto, Canada. 
Interested applicants should send a current CV, statement of interest, and two letters of reference to:

Dr. Ellen Bialystok 
Distinguished Research Professor 
Department of Psychology 
York University 
4700 Keele Street 
Toronto, Ontario 
Canada M3J 1P3 
(416) 736-2100 ext. 66109 

Applications will be considered until the position is filled. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

MRRI Institute Investigator (all levels): Language and Cognition in Neuropsychological Populations

August 2015

Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute (MRRI) seeks an Institute Investigator to join our historic program in language and cognition and help build the next generation of translational neuroscience/neurorehab research.

The successful applicant is expected to conduct an independent program of research and to participate in research collaborations within and outside MRRI. The ideal candidate is a cognitive, clinical, or neuroscientist or speech-language pathologist who studies language or related cognitive disorders, and who may also conduct research in translating basic science findings to improve clinical practice. Preference will be given to candidates who complement the faculty’s interests in areas like language processing, language learning, semantics, action planning, cognitive control, neuromodulation, neuroplasticity, and/or lesion-symptom mapping (for details, consult our website: 

Candidates must have a Ph.D. in a relevant area.  Evidence of research productivity and prior grant funding are required, as salaries and labs at MRRI are partially grant supported.  Qualified candidates at all levels are welcome to apply.  We offer a competitive start-up package, and ongoing salary support is available.

MRRI is known internationally for its research in neuroscience and neurorehabilitation, including a long tradition of ground-breaking research in aphasia.  Our unique resources include a large research registry of stroke and TBI research volunteers, and the long-running MossRehab Aphasia Center, a venue for life participation activities, training, and research. MRRI is renowned for its supportive, collegial environment, peer mentoring, and collaborative ties with Philadelphia’s outstanding colleges and universities. In particular, we have long-standing collaborations with the neurology and neuroimaging faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, with grant supported projects in structural and functional neuroimaging, TMS, and tDCS.

Einstein Healthcare Network is proud to offer our employees outstanding career opportunities including competitive compensation, attractive benefits plan including medical/dental/vision coverage, generous vacation time, and tuition reimbursement.


Interested candidates may submit a cover letter describing current research programs and proposed future directions in the MRRI environment, along with CV to:
Kevin Whelihan, Research Administrator;
MRRI, MossRehab @ Elkins Park
50 Township Line Road
Elkins Park, PA 19027
or .
Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.

We also welcome informal approaches by email or phone that begin a conversation that may eventually lead to an application; such inquiries can be directed to Dr. Myrna Schwartz ( Contact information for other MRRI faculty can be found at

Clinical Director, MossRehab Aphasia Center

August 2015

MossRehab, one of the top 10 rehabilitation centers in the nation, seek(s) an experienced clinical aphasiologist to direct the programs of its long standing MossRehab Aphasia Center.  Founded in 1996 as a joint program of MossRehab and Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute (MRRI), the Aphasia Center is a pioneer in creatively addressing the long-term communication and psychosocial needs of people with aphasia. The Center provides focused and meaningful intervention at strategic points in the communication recovery process. This can occur through the Center’s various programs, including: 1) the Advanced Clinical Therapy program (ACT), a specialized outpatient program that provides the most up-to date treatments for chronic aphasia; 2) A vibrant Aphasia Activity Center where people and families living with chronic aphasia participate in an array of communication and life enhancing activities; and 3) Participation in research. 

The successful applicant will lead the Aphasia Center’s continued growth and development. This includes supervision and mentoring of Speech-language pathologists, research assistants, students and volunteers; managing new and existing program initiatives; grant writing for program support, and, potentially conducting research. The MossRehab Aphasia Center is closely affiliated with Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute, which is internationally known for its research in neuroscience and neurorehabilitation, including a long tradition of ground-breaking research in aphasia. The Aphasia Center also is a founding member and affiliate of AphasiaAccess, a new alliance of Life Participation providers and shares its interest in life participation outcomes research.

The ideal candidate is a PhD or Masters level speech–language pathologist with clinical experience. The Clinical Directorship is a salaried half-time position. However, depending on the interests and qualifications of the candidate, the position could be expanded up to full-time through research collaborations and extramural grant support.   

Einstein Healthcare Network is proud to offer our employees outstanding career opportunities including competitive compensation, attractive benefits plan including medical/dental/vision coverage, generous vacation time, and tuition reimbursement.


Interested candidates may submit a cover letter along with CV to:
Kevin Whelihan, Research Administrator;
MRRI, MossRehab @ Elkins Park
50 Township Line Road
Elkins Park, PA 19027
or .
Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.
We also welcome informal approaches by email or phone that begin a conversation that may eventually lead to an application; such inquiries can be directed to Ruth Fink  , 215-663-6561. Additional information about the MossRehab Aphasia Center can be found at

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Call for new post docs in the Obleser lab

The research group “Auditory Cognition” (headed by Prof. Dr. Jonas Obleser; in the recently established Department of Psychology, University of Lübeck, is seeking to hire several

Postdoctoral Researchers 

starting by January 2016, initially for 3 years, with the option of a 2-year extension. These positions fall into the larger framework of an ERC Consolidator grant “The listening challenge: How ageing brains adapt” recently awarded to Jonas Obleser, and will allow the joint development of cognitive neuroscience and psychological research projects targeting adaptive control in the auditory modality of middle-aged adults.

[About the ERC project: The auditory sensory modality poses an excellent, although under-utilised, research model to understand the cognitive adjustments to sensory change (here termed “adaptive control”), their neural basis, and their large variation amongst individuals. Hearing abilities begin to decline already in the fourth life decade, and our guiding hypothesis is that individuals differ in the extent to which they are neurally, cognitively, and psychologically equipped to adapt to this sensory decline.]

We are looking for creative minds with a PhD degree and a promising track record in cognitive neuroscience, psychology, physics, or engineering. A strong background and interest in research methods is desirable. Prior experience with either human neuroscience methods (especially advanced EEG and/or fMRI analyses) or modeling of rich data sets (e.g., latent growth modeling, structural equation modeling) is expected.

The University of Lübeck is a modern university specializing in Medicine, Computer Science, Molecular Biology, Biomathematics and Medical Engineering. Internationally renowned research and high standards of academic tutoring characterize the profile of the university. A new dedicated research building (Centre for Brain, Behaviour, and Metabolism – CBBM) housing also the Obleser lab will open in late 2015.

Payment will follow salary group E13 TV-L (full time), if conditions based on German Public service regulations are satisfied.

These positions will be announced officially later in autumn 2015, but interested candidates should be in touch now with Jonas Obleser, 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Effects of expertise on action understanding -- confounds in a high-profile study

A 2008 study published in Nature Neuroscience claims to show that elite basketball players can better predict the outcome of a free-throw shot compared to expert observers (coaches) or novices.  This result has been cited over 400 times and is repeatedly put forward as clear evidence of the perceptual effect of motor experience--i.e., support for the mirror neuron theory of action understanding.

The effect is pretty dramatic as the graphs here show.  The black circle curve shows the percentage of correct responses (indicating whether the shot would be successful or fail) as a function of how much of the clip was shown for players (top graph) versus the other groups (middle and bottom graphs).

Compare the black circle correct response curve to the grey square curve, (percent incorrect) for the three groups and notice (1) that players are better and (2) they are better earlier by a substantial margin.  In fact, the performance advantage for players occurs prior to the ball leaving the hand, suggesting that they are keying on some aspect of the kinematics rather than ball trajectory.

As I admitted in my recent response to Rizzolatti's critique of my book, the Myth of Mirror Neurons, this is an impressive effect, not easily brushed aside as trivial.  My explanation in that response was that players, unlike coaches, are motivated to predict missed versus made shots because they have to react on the court to a possible rebound.  Therefore, players are simply more skilled at noticing predictors of shot success because they have more perceptual experience looking for them. I figured they were reading the kinematics like the authors suggested.

I was interested enough in this demonstration to attempt a replication, which is still ongoing. What we have done so far, and what led to this post, is that we filmed an elite basketball player making dozens of free-throw shots. What we learned led me to partially rethink the source of the effect--the cue to shot success--reported in the Nature Neuroscience report.

Our plan was to film a bunch of shots, most successful and many (we thought) unsuccessful.  Then we would use these hits and misses as our stims for the replication.  After a couple of dozen successful shots in a row we (i.e., my post doc Jon Venezia and student Leon Wojno) realized that our player's hit rate was too high to get enough misses just by letting him take his best shots (it would have taken hours).  So they asked him to try to miss on occasion, which he did.  He missed left or right mostly, very much on purpose.

When they got back to lab and sorted the shots into hits and misses, they noticed that it was impossible to predict which way the shot would go until it was in the basket.  The question then was how could anyone in the published study (novices included) be as successful as they were?  My students re-examined the sample stims from the published study and realized how.  The misses are very bad misses.  Here is a screen shot from the supplementary material published with the study.

Airball.  And a pretty horrible one at that.  This means that the ball trajectory is quite a good cue to shot success or failure, making it possible for even novices to accurately predict the shot outcome.

But still, the players are predicting outcome even before the ball leaves the shooters hands.  Doesn't this mean that playing experience is translating (via mirror neuron resonance) to better action understanding (outcome prediction)? Not so fast.

Remember we learned that in filming the shooter we had to ask him to miss on purpose.  No doubt the authors of the published study had to do the same for their shooter, especially given that the misses were so dramatic.  This made me wonder whether there might be something in the shooter's body language that tipped his intention--like his eye gaze.  It's not news that sports require exquisite eye-hand coordination.  Free throw shooters are trained to look at the back of the rim (i.e., where they want the ball to hit).  Now, if a player were to try to miss, especially to miss short, he or she might instead look short.  I looked at the eye gaze in sample IN vs. OUT shots and indeed, the IN shot (right frame below) reveals a higher-angle gaze than the OUT shot (left frame below).  He appears to be looking where he wants the ball to go, just like the skilled player he is.

Here's another example from another stim provided by the authors.  Can you tell which one is going in and which is going to miss short?

Now that you know what to look for, it's easy! The left one goes in, the right one misses short.

So this seems to be a very likely explanation for what the elite players in the study keyed on in making their response decisions.  The authors went through a lot of trouble measuring joint angles and such to find the kinematic cues that the athlete's mirror system resonated with, but they never looked at eye gaze (or face angle).  I suspect that it would be a reliable cue.

Do athletes pay attention to eye gaze?  OF COURSE! This is how you read the intentions of the players who have the ball and why Magic Johnson's no-look pass was so effective.

So what does this high-profile paper show?  That players are better at using eye-gaze information to predict shot outcome in a situation when the shooter is trying to miss. This is not a mirror resonance effect.  It is an effect of perceptual experience that comes from learning contingencies between (sometimes very brief) eye-gaze information and action intentions.  It has nothing to do with the observers' mirroring the shot itself.  

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

**EXAL+ Deadline Extended to August 30, 2015 at Midnight GMT.**

**EXAL+ Deadline Extended to August 30, 2015 at Midnight GMT.**

The NYU Neuroscience of Language Lab (NeLLab), New York University Abu Dhabi, and the NYU Abu Dhabi Research Institute are pleased to sponsor Experimental Approaches to Arabic and other understudied Languages (EXAL+) at NYU Abu Dhabi January 14-17, 2016. EXAL+ aims to bring together research broadening neurolinguistic and psycholinguistic horizons via the inclusion of languages or dialects not typically included in experimental investigations. EXAL+ will include 30 minute talks and posters based on submitted abstracts, as well as the following invited speakers:

- Ina Bornkessel-Schlesewsky (University of South Australia)
- Sandra Chung (University of California, Santa Cruz)
- David Corina (University of California, Davis)
- Ram Frost (Hebrew University, Jerusalem)
- Ali Idrissi (Qatar University)
- Itziar Laka (University of the Basque Country)
- Matthias Schlesewsky (University of South Australia)
- Matt Wagers (University of California, Santa Cruz)

Submissions are invited on any topic utilizing psycho- or neurolinguistic methodology with a focus on any experimentally understudied language. Abstracts for talks and/or posters should be no more than one (A4) page plus one additional page for figures, tables, and references and should be submitted electronically to Please use 2.54 cm/1 inch margins and a Times font face. Abstracts are due by midnight GMT on August 30, 2015 with notification sometime in early September. Limited financial support may be available for selected student presenters. There is a website for the conference at