The Elizabeth Bates Memorial Lecture

Keynote Speaker: Janet F. Werker
Chair: Marta Kutas

Wednesday, November 6, 1:30 – 2:30 pm, Crystal Ballroom

Dr. Janet WerkerDr. Janet F. Werker is Professor and Canada Research Chair in the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia. Werker is internationally known for her research investigating the perceptual foundations of language acquisition. Her over 100 papers and chapters, have appeared in prestigious journals including Science, Nature, Nature Communications, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Journal of Neuroscience, Psychological Science, and Cognition as well as in the premier journals in developmental psychology, language, and perception. Her awards include, the Killam Research Prize, the UBC Alumni Prize in Social Sciences, the Jacob Bieley Prize (UBC’s premier research prize), the Anne L. Brown Award in Developmental Psychology, and Fellowships in the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, the Royal Society of Canada, the Canadian Psychological Association, The American Psychological Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Cognitive Science Society.

Initial biases and experiential influences on infant speech perception development

Language involves a cascading interplay between biology and experience. Initial perceptual biases and core neural systems support learning any natural language. Development begins by tuning these systems to the native language. In this talk, I will review the rapid changes in auditory, visual, and multimodal speech perception that occur in the first months of life as infants establish a foundation for language acquisition. I will then present evidence that, while under typical circumstances the timing of perceptual attunement seems to be constrained by maturation, there are identifiable variations in experiences that can accelerate or slow down this developmental trajectory.  Finally, I will introduce new questions about whether studies to date on the timing of plasticity have considered all the relevant input systems. The implications of this work for a fuller understanding of the neurobiology of language development will be highlighted.

In my talk I’ll present new data on MR‐visible tracers and esfMRI that show the capacity of these methods for the study of the organization of cortical microcircuits and effective connectivity. I shall also show first results from studies mapping network topologies by triggering imaging at structure ‐specific events, e.g. hippocampal ripples or cross ‐frequency coupling events.