I received a PhD in Cognitive Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1990 and an MD from Harvard Medical School in 1991. I conduct research on the cognitive and neural basis of language. The underlying question I seek to address is: What makes human language special? Despite the seemingly intractable learnability problem posed by language acquisition, why do most children acquire language with ease? And despite the daunting computational problem posed by language processing, why do people process most sentences with ease?
My research tackles these and other questions using a wide range of different approaches, including: (1) cross-linguistic studies of typical and atypical language development, to tease apart those aspects of language that must be learned from those aspects of language that appear to be – on some level – innate; (2) behavior genetic studies of language to investigate the role that innate cognitive and neural predispositions and structures play in language acquisition and processing; and (3) studies of children with perinatal risk factors to investigate how early biological environmental factors affect linguistic and nonlinguistic development; and (4) studies of sentence processing, using psycholinguistic techniques to investigate the factors that guide adults’ and children’s sentence processing, and neuroimaging techniques to study how these factors are instantiated in the brain.