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Language on the Brain

SDSU speech and language professor, Karen Emmorey, will present her research at the AAAS annual meeting on Feb. 15.
Karen Emmorey
Karen Emmorey

Updated Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013

Emmorey will discuss “The Generality of the Language Faculty: Biological Bases of Signed Language” during the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting. She is among a diverse group of leading scientists, engineers, educators and policy-makers invited to present at and participate in this year’s event in Boston.

Her Feb. 15 presentation focuses on how signed languages provide a powerful tool for investigating the neurobiology and cognitive architecture of human language.

Emmorey is director of SDSU’s Laboratory for Language and Cognitive Neuroscience.

About AAAS

AAAS is an international non-profit organization dedicated to advancing science around the world by serving as an educator, leader, spokesperson and professional association. In addition to organizing membership activities, AAAS publishes the journal Science, as well as many scientific newsletters, books and reports, and spearheads programs that raise the bar of understanding for science worldwide.

San Diego State University professor Karen Emmorey has been selected for the 23rd Albert W. Johnson Research Lectureship to honor her outstanding contributions to understanding how the brain works. 

The lecture will take place Friday, Mar. 15, at 3 p.m. in Arts and Letters 201. American Sign Language interpretation will be provided.

Emmorey, professor of speech, language and hearing sciences and director of SDSU’s Laboratory for Language and Cognitive Neuroscience will deliver her lecture “The signing brain: What sign languages reveal about human language and the brain.”

Lingustic brainiac 

Emmorey served as senior researcher at the Salk Institute before becoming a professor at SDSU in 2005. 

Using a multiple-disciplinary approach, Emmorey uses American Sign Language to better understand language acquisition and to reveal the fundamental cognitive and neural bases of language.

By contrasting the processes of sign and vocal languages, Emmorey has developed insights into how and where languages are stored or processed in the brain, and how information is conveyed or reinforced by visual and auditory feedback loops. 

She also explores the changes in neural structure and function associated with vocal and visual based language.

These insights contribute to the development of clinical practices used to address communication disorders and to improve educational methods for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals.

National recognition

Her scholarship, spanning the five research areas of bimodal bilingualism, cognitive neuroscience, language cognition, phonetics and psycholinguistics, has produced four books and more than 100 academic articles. 

At SDSU, she has directed, as principal investigator, over $10 million dollars of federal grant funding.

Emmorey is a highly sought after speaker with 14 invited and keynote scientific lectures at national and international meetings over the past two years.   

Since 2001, she has been a member of the editorial board for several journals, currently serving on three. She is a fellow of the American Association for the advancement of Science. 

Emmorey has been recognized nationally,  as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. 

In 2011, Emmorey won a Monty award for outstanding faculty contributions and exceptional mentorship for doctoral students.

The lecture is free and open to the public. However, seating is limited and will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

About the Albert W. Johnson Lectureship

In 1984, San Diego State University established a lecture series to recognize its faculty members for outstanding achievement in research and scholarship, and to foster continuation of such accomplishments.

This lecture series was named the Albert W. Johnson University Research Lecture in 1991 to recognize the contributions of Johnson, a long-time faculty member, dean and provost at SDSU.

Johnson’s leadership was instrumental in transforming SDSU into an institution that celebrates scholarly accomplishment as an essential ingredient of faculty excellence.

Recipients of this award are designated as distinguished professors in their disciplines to commemorate their extraordinary research endeavors and contributions.

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