PEN Lecture Series
Academic Year 2014-2015
The PhD in Educational Neuroscience Program (PEN) is proud to present its 2015-2015 Lecture Series. This year's theme is "Leaders in Educational Neuroscience." The lecture series is presented in conjunction with the PEN 701 Proseminar.
All presentations are open to the public and will take place in B111 in the Merrill Learning Center (the Library), from 4:00 - 5:30 p.m.
Interpreters and CART services will be provided.
Live Streaming Available
Please view the presentations below to obtain the URL for live streaming of the presentations; high speed internet access is necessary for the best viewing experience.
All the presentations from 2008 to present are available on the VL2 website and on the Gallaudet University Video Library Catalog.
Number Symbols in the Brain and Mind
Humans share with animals the ability to process numerical quantities in non-symbolic formats (e.g. collections of objects). Unlike other species, however, over cultural history, humans have developed symbolic representations (such as number words and digits) to represent numerical quantities exactly and abstractly. These symbols and their semantic referents form the foundations for higher-level numerical and mathematical skills. It is commonly assumed that symbols for number acquire their meaning by being mapped onto the pre-existing, phylogenetically ancient system for the approximate representation of non-symbolic number over the course of learning and development. In this presentation, I will challenge this hypothesis for how numerical symbols acquire their meanings (‘the symbol grounding problem’). To do so, I will present a series of behavioral and neuroimaging studies with both children and adults that demonstrate that symbolic and non-symbolic processing of number is dissociated at both the behavioral and brain levels of analysis. I will discuss the implications of these data for theories of the origins of numerical symbol processing and its breakdown in children with mathematical learning disorders, such as Developmental Dyscalculia.
How Language Experience Shapes the Brain
How does our early experience with language impact the human brain, higher cognitive functions, and learning? In this presentation, I will focus on research that we have conducted spanning three decades in which we combined behavioral methods with functional neuroimaging (PET and fMRI) to investigate how neural recruitment is influenced by the age of acquisition/exposure (AoE), proficiency in the language, and the distinctive characteristics of languages. I will discuss the use of relatively new anatomical techniques such as voxel-based morphometry-VBM, cortical thickness measures, and diffusion tensor tractography to enhance our understanding of the critical-period phenomena and neural plasticity in the human brain. The program of research addresses the extent to which the human brain has the capacity to change as a result of learning. Here, we specifically investigate the extent to which the neural patterns are fixed and the extent to which the patterns can be altered later in life. The results of these studies reveal the neural underpinnings of human brain development in relation to the age of language exposure, and they suggest periods when learning language are most optimal in early life.