Cognitive Neuroscience

Goals/Background

We’re fortunate to have access to multiple brain recording tools (EEG, MEG, MRI). But we use those tools sparingly in our research. The best way to understand the brain is not always to observe brain activity — that is only informative if we have a good understanding of what we’re looking at. Effective cognitive neuroscience must be tightly linked to cognitive and computational research, and that is why we do all of them in parallel. Many of the most interesting neuroscience questions about encoding and accessing linguistic information are better investigated using computational modeling approaches for the foreseeable future, and it is not certain that current brain recording tools will be able to contribute to those discussions. I have been using cognitive neuroscience measures since the early 1990s and I have invested much effort in building infrastructure in this area, but I get frustrated by the increasing rush to focus on neuroscience research at the expense of less sexy but cost effective linguistic and cognitive research.

Timing

Much of the time our brain recordings serve as rich, continuous dependent measures, with little concern for neuroanatomy. (The localization of EEG activity is notoriously hard.)

  • EEG data provides fine-grained timing information to augment our studies using behavioral measures such as eye-tracking, e.g., Xiang et al. 2009.
  • We have contributed to currently lively debates on the cognitive and linguistic processes reflected in well-known EEG components, e.g., Phillips et al. 2005; Gouvea et al. 2010; Lau et al. 2008.
  • We’re very interested in what electrophysiology might tell us about syntax-semantics coupling, e.g., Stroud & Phillips 2012; Chow & Phillips 2013.
  • A recent focus is on using EEG to probe the time-course of predictive processes, which may be slower than we thought, e.g., Chow et al. 2014.

Neuroanatomy

Neuroanatomical information gets interesting once we have independent evidence on the function of a brain region, and when we also know something about its engagement in a network of regions. Our research on the neuroanatomy of sentence comprehension, led by Ellen Lau, started when we found that the same sentence-level linguistic manipulation elicits activity in quite different brain regions in fMRI and MEG studies. And we independently knew something about region identified by the MEG studies. Getting to the bottom of that puzzle proved far more interesting than we could have imagined. And the detective work relied crucially on Ellen’s cognitive expertise. (Lau, Phillips, & Poeppel, 2008, Nature Reviews Neuroscience.)

Speech Perception

My initial forays into cognitive neuroscience, together with Alec Marantz and David Poeppel, later with Nina Kazanina and Bill Idsardi, focused on speech perception. It is an attractive domain, as the sounds and the perceptual phenomena are relatively well understood, and one can formulate sensible neuroanatomical hypotheses. We combined MEG measures with phonetic/phonological expertise to try to pinpoint specific levels of representation. (Phillips et al. 1995; Phillips et al. 2000; Phillips 2001; Kazanina et al. 2006.)

Publications in Cognitive Neuroscience

including PhD dissertations supervised

Chow, Wing Yee; Lau, Ellen; Wang, Suiping; Phillips, Colin (2016): Timing is everything: the temporal dynamics of word prediction . 2016, (submitted for publication). (Type: Unpublished | Abstract | Links | BibTeX)
Chow, Wing Yee; Smith, Cybelle; Lau, Ellen; Phillips, Colin (2015): A 'bag-of-arguments' mechanism for initial verb predictions . In: Language, Cognition, and Neuroscience, 2015. (Type: Journal Article | Abstract | Links | BibTeX)
Chow, Wing Yee (2013): The temporal dimension of linguistic prediction . University of Maryland, 2013. (Type: PhD Thesis | Abstract | Links | BibTeX)
Chow, Wing Yee; Phillips, Colin (2013): No semantic illusion in the 'semantic P600' phenomenon: ERP evidence from Mandarin Chinese . In: Brain Research, 1506 , pp. 76-93, 2013. (Type: Journal Article | Abstract | Links | BibTeX)
Dillon, Brian; Nevins, Andrew; Austin, Alison C; Phillips, Colin (2012): Syntactic and semantic predictors of tense in Hindi: An ERP investigation . In: Language and Cognitive Processes, 27 (3), pp. 313-344, 2012. (Type: Journal Article | Abstract | Links | BibTeX)
Stroud, Clare; Phillips, Colin (2012): Examining the evidence for an independent semantic analyzer: An ERP study in Spanish . In: Brain and Language, 120 , pp. 107-126, 2012. (Type: Journal Article | Abstract | Links | BibTeX)
Dillon, Brian (2011): Structured access in sentence comprehension . University of Maryland, 2011. (Type: PhD Thesis | Abstract | Links | BibTeX)
Gouvea, Ana C; Phillips, Colin; Kazanina, Nina; Poeppel, David (2010): The linguistic processes underlying the P600 . In: Language and Cognitive Processes, 25 (2), pp. 149–188, 2010. (Type: Journal Article | Abstract | Links | BibTeX)
Lau, Ellen (2009): The predictive nature of language comprehension . University of Maryland, 2009. (Type: PhD Thesis | Abstract | Links | BibTeX)
Xiang, Ming; Dillon, Brian; Phillips, Colin (2009): Illusory licensing effects across dependency types: ERP evidence . In: Brain and Language, 108 (1), pp. 40–55, 2009. (Type: Journal Article | Abstract | Links | BibTeX)
Stroud, Clare (2008): Structural and semantic selectivity in the electrophysiology of sentence comprehension . University of Maryland, 2008. (Type: PhD Thesis | Abstract | Links | BibTeX)
Lau, Ellen F; Phillips, Colin; Poeppel, David (2008): A cortical network for semantics:(de) constructing the N400 . In: Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 9 (12), pp. 920–933, 2008. (Type: Journal Article | Abstract | Links | BibTeX)
Nevins, Andrew; Dillon, Brian; Malhotra, Shiti; Phillips, Colin (2007): The role of feature-number and feature-type in processing Hindi verb agreement violations . In: Brain Research, 1164 , pp. 81–94, 2007. (Type: Journal Article | Abstract | Links | BibTeX)
Kazanina, Nina; Phillips, Colin; Idsardi, William (2006): The influence of meaning on the perception of speech sounds . In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 103 (30), pp. 11381–11386, 2006. (Type: Journal Article | Abstract | Links | BibTeX)
Phillips, Colin; Wagers, Matthew (2006): Constituent structure and the binding problem . In: Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 29 (01), pp. 81–82, 2006, (Commentary). (Type: Journal Article | Abstract | Links | BibTeX)
Phillips, Colin; Kazanina, Nina; Abada, Shani H (2005): ERP effects of the processing of syntactic long-distance dependencies . In: Cognitive Brain Research, 22 (3), pp. 407–428, 2005. (Type: Journal Article | Abstract | Links | BibTeX)
Phillips, Colin (2005): Electrophysiology in the study of developmental language impairments: Prospects and challenges for a top-down approach . In: Applied Psycholinguistics, 26 (01), pp. 79–96, 2005. (Type: Journal Article | Abstract | Links | BibTeX)
Phillips, Colin; Sakai, Kuniyoshi L (2005): Language and the brain . In: The McGraw-Hill handbook of science and technology, McGraw-Hill, 2005. (Type: Incollection | Links | BibTeX)
Phillips, Colin (2001): Levels of representation in the electrophysiology of speech perception . In: Cognitive Science, 25 , pp. 711-731, 2001. (Type: Journal Article | Abstract | Links | BibTeX)
Phillips, Colin; Pellathy, Thomas; Marantz, Alec; Yellin, Elron; Wexler, Kenneth; Poeppel, David; McGinnis, Martha; Roberts, Timothy (2000): Auditory cortex accesses phonological categories: an MEG mismatch study . In: Cognitive Neuroscience, Journal of, 12 (6), pp. 1038-1055, 2000. (Type: Journal Article | Abstract | Links | BibTeX)
Phillips, Colin; Pellathy, Thomas; Marantz, Alec (2000): Phonological feature representations in auditory cortex . 2000. (Type: Unpublished | Abstract | Links | BibTeX)
Sekihara, Kensuke; Poeppel, David; Marantz, Alec; Phillips, Colin; Koizumi, Hideaki; Miyashita, Yasushi (1998): MEG covariance difference analysis: a method to extract target source activities by using task and control measurements . In: IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, 45 (1), pp. 87–97, 1998. (Type: Journal Article | Abstract | Links | BibTeX)
Govindarajan, Krishna K; Phillips, Colin; Poeppel, David; Roberts, Timothy PL; Marantz, Alec (1998): Latency of MEG M100 response indexes first formant frequency . In: The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 103 (5), pp. 2982–2983, 1998. (Type: Journal Article | Abstract | Links | BibTeX)
Poeppel, David; Phillips, Colin; Yellin, Elron; Rowley, Howard A; Roberts, Timothy PL; Marantz, Alec (1997): Processing of vowels in supratemporal auditory cortex . In: Neuroscience letters, 221 (2), pp. 145–148, 1997. (Type: Journal Article | Abstract | Links | BibTeX)
Poeppel, David; Yellin, Elron; Phillips, Colin; Roberts, Timothy; Rowley, Howard; Wexler, Kenneth; Marantz, Alec (1996): Task-induced asymmetry of the auditory evoked M100 neuromagnetic field elicited by speech sounds . In: Cognitive Brain Research, 4 (4), pp. 231–242, 1996. (Type: Journal Article | Abstract | Links | BibTeX)
Phillips, Colin; Marantz, Alec; McGinnis, Martha; Pesetsky, David; Wexler, Kenneth; Yellin, Elron; Poeppel, David; Roberts, Timothy; Rowley, Howard (1995): Brain mechanisms of speech perception: a preliminary report . In: Schütze, Carson; Ganger, Jennifer; Broihier, Kevin (Ed.): Papers on Language Acquisition and Proce , pp. 125–163, vol. 26, 1995. (Type: Book Chapter | Links | BibTeX)