The aim of my research is to better understand how sounds trigger meaningful representations in the brain, and how information from the different senses combines and interacts. Of central interest is how structure in the external world (e.g. a word, symbol, tool, or built space) affects cognition, and why certain representational forms are particularly effective in conveying certain types of information or affording specific actions. 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 in words for specific concepts), we can identify underlying patterns, and gain insight into the workings of the human mind and systems for representing information.
My current projects employ functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and behavioral testing (people making quick responses on a computer) to examine the processing of sensory-based metaphorical language and cross-sensory mappings (with my advisor Dr. Nygaard in the Emory psychology dept. and Dr. Krish Sathian chair of Neurology dept. at Penn State School of Medicine). 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. The ocean and adrenaline remain key ingredients in my life.