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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences : Psychology

Undergraduate Course: Neurobiology of Language (PSYL10169)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryLanguage is perhaps the greatest achievement of the human mind and brain. This course will focus on the neural basis of this amazing ability, particularly how language processes leverage mechanisms of perception, action, memory, and executive functions. Indicative topics include: word meaning and conceptual knowledge, speech perception and articulation, sentence processing, bilingualism, written language, and sign language. Throughout, the course will examine both typical adult language processing as well as neurogenic language disorders. The course material will be conveyed through lectures, assigned readings, and discussion of current debates.
Course description This course will provide a contemporary, focused survey of the neural basis of human language processing -- one our most precious and uniquely human capacities. The course will guide students through the methods, the key findings, and their implications for understanding the mechanisms of language processing and language impairments. It will begin with an overview of fundamental aspects of brain structure and function, then proceed through representation of word meaning, speech perception and articulation, comprehension and production of complex expressions including grammatical structure and narrative speech, processing language in written and signed modalities, and bilingualism. The course material will draw heavily on structural and functional neuroimaging as well as studies of individuals with language deficits. It will also emphasise how understanding the neural basis of language sheds light on the cognitive mechanisms of language processing and how it can inform treatment of language impairments.

The course material will be delivered through lectures and assigned readings, as well as class discussion to foster critical thinking and evaluation of the methods and theoretical claims. Critical thinking, independent research, and written communication will be further cultivated in the students' final papers.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Psychology 2A (PSYL08011) AND Psychology 2B (PSYL08012)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should be studying Psychology as their degree major, and have completed at least 3 Psychology courses at grade B or above. We will only consider University/College level courses. Applicants should note that, as with other popular courses, meeting the minimum does NOT guarantee admission.

**Please note that upper level Psychology courses are high-demand, meaning that they have a very high number of students wishing to enrol in a very limited number of spaces.** These enrolments are managed strictly by the Visiting Student Office, in line with the quotas allocated by the department, and all enquiries to enrol in these courses must be made through the CAHSS Visiting Student Office. It is not appropriate for students to contact the department directly to request additional spaces.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Compare and contrast the neural systems that support human language processing.
  2. Critically evaluate theories linking the neural systems and cognitive/computational mechanisms of human language processing.
  3. Apply models or theories of language processes to other topics within the psychology of language, for example, language impairments like dyslexia and aphasia.
  4. Communicate and critique contemporary research on the neurobiology of language.
Reading List
Weekly reading assignments will be provided based on textbook chapters and/or research articles. Examples are given below:

Kemmerer, D. (2015). Cognitive Neuroscience of Language: An Introduction. New York: Psychology Press

Patterson, K., Nestor, P.J., & Rogers, T.T. (2007). Where do you know what you know? The representation of semantic knowledge in the human brain. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 8(12), 976-987,

Hickok, G. S., & Poeppel, D. (2007). The cortical organization of speech processing. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 8(5), 393¿402.

Hickok, G. S. (2012). Computational neuroanatomy of speech production. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 13(2), 135¿145.

Matchin, W., & Hickok, G. (2020). The cortical organization of syntax. Cerebral Cortex, 30(3), 1481¿1498.

Mirman, D., & Thye, M. (2018). Uncovering the neuroanatomy of core language systems using lesion-symptom mapping. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 27(6), 455¿461.

Dehaene, S., Cohen, L., Morais, J., & Kolinsky, R. (2015). Illiterate to literate: behavioural and cerebral changes induced by reading acquisition. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 16(4), 234-244.

Xu, M., Baldauf, D., Chang, C. Q., Desimone, R., & Tan, L. H. (2017). Distinct distributed patterns of neural activity are associated with two languages in the bilingual brain. Science Advances, 3(7), e1603309.

Blanco-Elorrieta, E., Kastner, I., Emmorey, K. & Pylkkänen, L. (2018). Shared neural correlates for building phrases in signed and spoken language. Scientific Reports, 8, 5492.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Analytical thinking: analyse, synthesise, critically and methodically appraise thoughts to break down complex problems into manageable components.

Critical thinking: capability to evaluate information thoroughly; identifying assumptions, detecting false logic or reasoning and defining terms accurately in order to make an informed judgement.

Independent research: conduct research and enquiry into relevant issues through research design

Written communications: communicate complex ideas and arguments in writing,
produce clear structured written work
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Daniel Mirman
Tel: (0131 6)50 3348
Course secretaryMiss Susan Scobie
Tel: (0131 6)51 5505
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