Research on adult cognitive processes focuses primarily on language, memory, spatial and numerical processing, using a diverse set of methods that include eye tracking, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and magnetoencephalography (MEG).
This research area is supported by BBSRC, EU, ESRC, EPSRC, MRC, Nuffield Foundation, Royal Society, and the Wellcome Trust.
The Psycholinguistics group (Altmann, Cornelissen, Ellis, Gennari, Gaskell, Jefferies and associated researchers and research students) use a range of methodologies including experimentation, eye movements, neural modelling, and neuroimaging to investigate the cognitive and neural bases of language processing. Specific themes include the acquisition and sleep-related consolidation of new spoken words (Gaskell), how language maps onto visual and conceptual representations, and how it modulates low-level attentional mechanisms (Altmann), the cognitive and brain processes implicated in semantic processing (Gennari, Jefferies), and involved in visual word recognition and the effects of age of acquisition on representations (Ellis), and functional interactions between vision, language and attention during word recognition (Cornelissen).
Lab meetings of the Psycholinguistics group are held weekly during term-time.
The Centre for Working Memory and Learning was formed in 2006, and consists of Baddeley, Hitch, Gathercole, Jefferies, and associate researchers and research students. Research in the Centre includes experimental, developmental and applied research on working memory, learning, and long-term memory. Research includes experimental studies of word learning (Hitch), binding, the control of action and affective disorders (Baddeley), developmental disorders of working memory and attention, and neuropsychological and neuroimaging studies of semantic memory (Jefferies).
Working Memory lab meetings are held regularly during term. The Centre has many collaborations within its staff and with colleagues in other institutions, and regularly attracts international visitors who engage in collaborative research projects.
Further research includes cognitive and neuroimaging studies of human spatial memory with particular reference to the hippocampus and anterior prefrontal regions (Hartley) and the neural and cognitive representations of number (Göbel).
An investigation of the nature of the representations constructed as people see objects in their environment and compute, seemingly automatically, the kinds of interaction that those objects can engage in with one another. This project is a part of Chris Rowson's PhD research, supervised by Gerry Altmann and in collaboration with Silvia Gennari.
This project explores how the plausibility of events described by the unfolding language mediates overt attention around a visual scene depicting the participants in the event. This is a part of Gitte Joergensen's PhD research, supervised by Gerry Altmann.
When we hear a sentence describing an event in which an object changes, we have to keep in memory those changes; we need to keep in memory multiple 'instantiations' of those objects, reflecting the 'before' and 'after' of those changes. Here, we explore how these multiple representations interact with one another. This is a collaborative research program involving Gerry Altmann, Yuki Kamide (Dundee), Sharon Thompson-Schill (Philadelphia), and Brian McElress (New York). Behavioural methods on this project include eye-tracking, fMRI, and other techniques.
This project explores issues concerning eye movement control in individuals suffering from degeneration of the macular (the central area of vision). Macular degeneration is the most common form of age-related blindness. This is the PhD topic of Mr. Richard Gale (Consultant Ophthalmologist, York Hospital), supervised by Gerry Altmann
An investigation of how the brain processes sentence meaning from combinations of words. This project is part of Gina Humphreys PhD research supervised by Silvia Gennari.
The interface of language and action. An investigation of the extent to which sentences describing actions share neural representations with action representations. This project is part of Claire Moody's PhD research supervised by Silvia Gennari.
An investigation by Silvia Gennari of the extent to which linguistic meaning is grounded in perceptual processes, in collaboration with Gina Humphreys.
An investigation by Silvia Gennari of the effect of contexts on processing word meanings. This project uses behavioral methods and MEG to establish the time course of context-word interactions.
An investigation of how we process and represent temporal information in reading and listening, supervised by Silvia Gennari in collaboration with Marta Coll-Florit (Barcelona) and Gitte Joergensen (York). The project uses behavioural and eye-tracking methods.
An investigation of the brain basis of syntactic processing: Silvia Gennari in collaboration with George Tsoulas, Bill Haddican, Eytan Zweig and Hidekazu Tanaka (York, Linguistics).
An investigation of how different languages organize information into different sentence structures. Silvia Gennari in collaboration with Maryellen MacDonald (Wisconsin, USA) and Jelena Mirkovic (York).
In this project number processing and calculation skills of adults with reading difficulties are tested behaviourally. With fMRI we will then establish the brain networks used for those tasks by adults with dyslexia and any differences to brain networks used by adults without dyslexia. This is a collaboration between Silke Goebel and Maggie Snowling.
This project is very similar to the project described above, but focuses on adults with difficulties in maths. It consists of behavioural and fMRI studies and is conducted by Silke Goebel together with Liane Kaufmann (Austria).
In this project the reliability of spatial-numerical associations in adults is assessed and the relationship of these associations to other numerical skills is explored. Project led by Silke Goebel.
In this project the timing of the contribution of various brain areas to symbolic number comparison is investigated. Project led by Silke Goebel
Various aspects of number processing (such as numerical estimation, counting and number comparison) are measured repeatedly in primary school children over 2-3 years. The aim of the project is to identify longitudinal predictors of individual differences in maths. This project is part of Sarah Watson's PhD, supervised by Silke Göbel.
In this project the direction of counting and sorting object by size is tested in preschool children, school aged children and adults in Britain and Israel to investigate the influence of reading direction on counting direction. This project is a collaboration between Silke Goebel, Martin Fischer (Dundee) and Samuel Shaki (Israel).
This project examines the concept an episodic buffer, and its role in binding information from different components of working memory, and linking with long-term memory. Much of this is focused on the binding of visual features in short-term memory. This is a collaboration between Alan Baddeley, Graham Hitch, Richard Allen (now in Leeds) and a range of visitors, including Satoru Saito (Kyoto), Taiji Ueno (Manchester) and Judit Mate (Barcelona). In parallel a series of studies on binding in memory for sentences is continuing.
Ongoing studies by Alan Baddeley in collaboration with Guillermo Campoy (Murcia), Judit Mate (Barcelona), and separately with Janet Larsen (Ohio).
Various projects with Alan Baddeley in collaboration with others.
Although semantic disorders occur commonly as a result of stroke and dementia, these debilitating problems are not yet well-understood. This project (between Beth Jefferies and Matt Lambon Ralph and others) investigates the underlying causes of semantic impairment in patients with different areas of brain injury. For example, patients with semantic dementia, who have anterior temporal lobe atrophy, have degraded semantic knowledge. In contrast, patients with left prefrontal or temporoparietal stroke retain a considerable amount of knowledge but have difficulty applying this information in a controlled, flexible way to suit the task in hand. Hannah Gardener is extending this work to examine whether left and right hemisphere stroke patients show differing impairments of semantic control.
Functional neuroimaging studies of healthy participants focus on the role of left inferior frontal gyrus in semantic control. However, our patient and fMRI research suggests that posterior temporal and inferior parietal cortex may also contribute to aspects of semantic control. In studies by Beth Jefferies with Carin Whitney, Gorana Pobric and Katya Krieger-Redwood, we are exploring the behavioural consequences of magnetic stimulation (TMS) over these different sites for semantic and non-semantic tasks. We also combine TMS with fMRI to examine the neural consequences of magnetic stimulation.
Patients with semantic dementia show that word meaning makes a crucial contribution to verbal short-term memory. These patients make frequent “spoonerism” errors in immediate serial recall for words that they no longer fully understand (for example, “heart, dog” might be recalled as “dart, hog”). This project (Beth Jefferies with Clive Frankish and others) investigates “semantic binding” of phonemes in language production tasks including immediate serial recall and paced reading, in healthy participants and patients.
In a new project with Beth Jefferies and Azizah Almaghyuli, we aim to explore the potential of electrical stimulation methods (tDCS) to facilitate recovery of language function in stroke aphasia. Recent studies have obtained promising results for the recovery of motor function but there has been little work to date on language or semantic memory.
A multi-site collaboration led by Graham Hitch. This theme includes studies of temporal grouping effects in immediate serial recall, learning new word forms and computational modelling. Graham is also leading other projects on individual differences in visual working memory and effects of strategies in working memory tasks.
This project investigates how information in visual scenes (e.g., landscapes) enables us to understand where we are, and to form spatial memories (for example recognizing the same place when seen from a different point of view). Tom Hartley and PhD student Chris Racey are investigating how different parts of the brain represent scenes and places, and which parts of the brain are critical for spatial memory. Can brain activity and structure predict or explain variations in spatial memory?
Led by Piers Cornelissen, this project uses a combination of psychophysical and neuroimaging techniques (MEG and FMRI). Specific research questions include: (1) How does information flow through the cortical network which supports reading and visual word recognition? (2) What is the role of early Broca’s area activity during visual word recognition? (3) To what extent does individual variation in visual processing influence visual word recognition? (4) Do people with developmental dyslexia process visual information differently from normally reading controls?
This collaboration between Piers Cornelissen and Martin Tovee focuses on the perception of human body size, shape and attractiveness in both normal and eating disordered individuals.