When you study one neuron, it's Neuroscience. When you study two neurons, it's Psychology

How does the brain decode the acoustic signal of speech, recognize words and comprehend sentences? My research interests encompass speech processing, language comprehension, bilingualism and second language acquisition. I explore these questions using the tools of experimental psychology and cognitive neuroscience. I currently work as a research scientist at the INSERM-CEA Cognitive Neuroimaging Unit where I head the "Neuroimaging of Language" team.

My main findings (obtained in collaboration with numerous colleagues, notably Jacques Mehler, Emmanuel Dupoux, Nuria Sebastian, Anne Christophe, Stanislas and Ghislaine Dehaene...) are the following:

  • Listeners use language-specific constrains, and in particular the syllabic structure of their language, to parse the speech signal (Pallier et al, 1993; Dupoux et al, 1999, 2001).
  • Early and intensive exposure to a second language does not guarantee attainment of native-like perception (Pallier et al. 1997, Pallier et al. 2001)
  • Early and intensive exposure to a language does not guarantee stable and irreversible learning: on the contrary, a first language can be mostly forgotten as studies on adoptees attest (Pallier et al. 2003, Ventureyra et al. 2004)
  • Using sine-wave stimuli that can be perceived either as noise or as speech, we highlighted brain regions involved in speech perception (Dehaene-Lambertz et al. 2005)
  • Contrasting French and Japanese, we highlighted the brain regions involved in phonological processing (Jacquemot et al, 2003)
  • "Good" and "bad" learners of foreign language show different brain responses and have detectable differences in brain structures (Chee et al. 2004; Golestani et al. 2007)
  • We have explored the language understanding network with an emphasis on syntactic parsing (Devauchelle et al. 2009, Pallier et al. 2011). We are currently exploring similarities and differences between Music and Language syntactic processing.

Also, with my colleague Boris New, I have developed the "Lexique" database of French.

Check out my Publications for more information.