Caselli, J. (2023). Does Perception Match Performance? Neurophysiological Correlates of Cognitive Control. Villanova Undergraduate Research Fellows (VURF) grant. Villanova Center for Research and Fellowship

  • Previous research shows that weaker performance on reactive control tasks correlates to greater adaptation to change (Smalle et al., 2022). The aim of this research is to compare the results of AX-CPT and n-back behavioral tasks with electrophysiological data obtained via EEG in an “Oddball” paradigm, measuring activity resulting from detection of a change in stimulus. Thirty monolingual English speakers will complete the series of tasks and undergo EEG to record event-related potential (ERP) data. Data analysis will include means and standard deviations of task performance within the sample and t-tests and regression analysis between behavioral and ERP variables. If weaker performance also correlates to more attenuated ERPs, this would provide evidence that one does not need to detect a change to participate in it. If they do not correlate, these results may shed light on task validity for behavioral measures of control.

Berry, Grant M. & Toscano, J.C. (2022-2024). Experiential and neurocognitive mechanisms of language adaptation. Research Catalyst Grant ($35k). Villanova Institute for Research and Scholarship.

  • Language is highly variable and prone to structural change. When small-scale patterns start to take shape, as is often the case with incipient sound change, humans face the monumental tasks of distinguishing meaningful shifts from noise and then adapting to those changes in the speech around them. Though adaptation is guided by both language experience and cognitive processing ability, researchers know little about how the two interact. The proposed collaboration combines the expertise of project leads from the Departments of Spanish and Psychological & Brain Sciences to address this theoretical gap using a novel paradigm that simulates sound change in a controlled, laboratory setting. Specifically, we will measure the degree to which English monolinguals and English-Spanish bilinguals integrate sound changes from their input into their own speech. We will then compare adaptation ability to cognitive processing performance and to neurophysiological responses, measured using electroencephalography (EEG), that reflect sound change detection. Experimental data will be analyzed alongside demographic information and participants’ language histories to explore effects of change detection, cognitive processing, and language experience on adaptation. Results will inform theories of psycholinguistics and laboratory phonology by identifying factors that promote language and category learning. Furthermore, findings will be directly relevant to societal issues by providing vital predictions regarding how demographic changes predicted to occur in large urban centers in the US over the next three decades (namely, increased exposure to languages other than English at home and increased domestic migration) may affect linguistic structures and patterns of use.