Language is a complex cognitive function, involving the processing of several interacting levels of linguistic structure (e.g., phonology, syntax, semantics). The aim of our research is to understand the (neuro-)psychological mechanisms underlying the processing of human language in adults and its rapid and efficient acquisition in infants and young children.
Our team is composed of cognitive scientists working on the neurobiological and psychological foundations of consciousness. We are especially interested in how conscious and unconscious processes differ at both the psychological and neural level. We use various behavioral methods (e.g., priming, psychophysics) and brain imaging techniques (e.g., fMRI, EEG) to study how humans process things unconsciously (e.g., as in situations of subliminal perception, sleep or hypnosis) and compare it to situations of conscious processing.
During the last thirty years, developmental psychology have documented the surprising speed and robustness with which babies learn the linguistics and social characteristics of their maternal environment. During the first year alone, infants achieve impressive landmarks regarding three key language components (see Figure 1).
The leading thread behind our research can be summed up in this single question:
How can the human genome build a brain that can acquire a language, and other typically human cognitive skills?
We attempt to address this question by studying developmental disorders affecting language and/or social cognition (dyslexia, specific language impairment, autism), at all the relevant levels of description: cognitive, neural and genetic.