Foundations Course Descriptions

Below are brief descriptions of each of the NBL Foundations courses.

  1. Foundations 1: Genomic Sciences, Brain, and Computation. Introduction to themes that are most cross-cutting, most in need of technical background, and least likely for all trainees to have been solidly trained in as undergraduates. This course in particular lays out the vision of the empirical-theoretical framework motivating our NBL program and provides the core knowledge needed to participate in that vision.
  2. Foundations 2: Language Structure and Psycholinguistics. Students in this course gain an appreciation for the complexity of speakers’ tacit grammatical knowledge, and for the feat of child language acquisition, by constructing explicit, testable theories of grammatical phenomena in unfamiliar languages (e.g., Navajo, Georgian, Mohawk), and testing them against additional data from the language. Emphasis is placed on using theory to answer the logical problem of language acquisition (How can learning reliably occur, given the seemingly impoverished input that even typically developing children receive?) to theories of atypical language development. Moreover, by reviewing relationships between linguistic models and brain-inspired psycholinguistic models, the course will provide a foundation for spanning the large gap between neural-level and grammar-level understanding of the world’s languages.
  3. Foundations 3: Neurodevelopment and Plasticity. Foundations in: neurodevelopmental processes (neurogenesis, migration, synaptogenesis, pruning, and the genetic mechanisms that regulate them); neuroembryology and phylogeny; developmental plasticity (sculpting of cortical circuits through intrinsic and extrinsic experience, teratology, deprivation and re-organization); cognitive neurodevelopment; and genetics of neurodevelopmental pathology (SLI, dyslexia, ASD, Williams syndrome). Such knowledge- sets are necessary for all students to achieve a systems perspective on language development.
  4. Foundations 4: Typical and atypical language development. These comparisons will provide a window into mechanisms and processes of language development in 3 ways. (1) For content areas (e.g., lexical, syntactic, and pragmatic knowledge), we will interleave readings focusing on typical and atypical language profiles. (2) We will characterize linguistic knowledge using data drawn from naturalistic approaches, psycholinguistic experiments, clinical assessments, genotype/phenotype comparisons, and intervention/plasticity. (3) We will integrate research on underlying causes/mechanisms of atypical language outcomes with the cognitive and computational processes assumed to be operating in typical acquisition, and illustrate how atypical trajectories and outcomes inform fundamental theory.
  5. Foundations 5: Neurobiology of typical and atypical language. The goal of this course is to provide students with the tools to critically evaluate primary literature on the neurobiology of language in both typical and atypical populations, filling important historical and bidirectional gaps between cognitive neuroscience and language impairment research, and emphasizing basic science insights that originated from observations in atypical populations. We begin with methodological challenges and contributions that neuroimaging, computational modeling, and impaired populations present, and complete the course by examining important case studies where data from clinical populations, computational modeling and neuroimaging evidence can be integrated to guide formation of more complete models of language function. Ultimately, students will be conversant with techniques necessary to create multi-disciplinary research programs that integrate the many sources of evidence available to language scientists.