The aim of my research is to better understand how sounds trigger meaningful representations in the brain, how information from the different senses combines and interacts, and how the external environment affects cognition. Of central interest is how the structure of things in the external world (e.g. a symbol, word, tool, or building) relates to cognitive processing, and why certain representational forms are particularly effective in conveying specific information or promoting specific uses. My research approaches this question through studies in sound symbolism (are some words better than others for representing a particular meaning?) and cross-sensory mappings (how does experience in one of the senses extend into the others?). I integrate aspects of cognitive neuroscience, linguistics, anthropology, and symbolic systems in my approach to these questions. By examining how people across the world systematically represent concepts (e.g. using particular sounds to mark specific concepts), we can identify underlying patterns, and gain insight into the workings of the human mind and representational systems.
My current projects employ functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and behavioral testing (people making quick decisions at a computer) to examine the processing of sensory-based metaphorical language and cross-sensory mappings (with my advisor Dr. Nygaard in psychology and Dr. Krish Sathian in Emory School of Medicine, Neurology dept). I also study sound-to-meaning mappings in language (also with Dr. Nygaard).
A brief history
As an undergraduate at the University of California, San Diego, I earned a BSc in Cognitive Science (neuroscience specialization) and minored in Linguistics and Spanish Literature. I am thrilled to be able to integrate these areas of study in my current research on language, conceptual representations, and sensory integration in the brain.
Following graduation from UCSD, I spent three years as lab manager in Lera Boroditsky’s psychology lab at Stanford University. There, we examined the relationship between language and thought, testing whether speakers of different languages differ in how they perceive, encode, or reason about the world.
In a past life, I was a professional beach bum (lifeguard) and emergency medical technician in Northern California.