Interdisciplinary Life Science - PULSe Great research is a matter of choice

Christine Weber

Christine Weber Profile Picture

Professor Speech, Language, & Hearing Sciences
Ph.D., Purdue University

Contact Info:

Training Group(s):
Integrative Neuroscience

Current Research Interests:

The main objectives of my research program are to investigate how brain functions mediate language processing by addressing four critical questions: 1) Are brain functions distinctive for specific language tasks? 2) How does neural activity elicited by linguistic stimuli mature over the course of development? 3) Do brain functions for language processing differ for individuals with a variety of language experiences and proficiencies? 4) What are the neural indices of language processing in communicatively impaired individuals?

To address these questions, I use a multileveled approach involving both electrophysiological and behavioral measures. The experimental paradigms are designed to test different aspects of language processing (e.g., lexical integration, syntactic constraints, phonological awareness). Experimental outcomes are revealed in measures of event-related brain potentials (ERPs) and behavioral results, including response accuracy and reaction times. Our protocols also involve comprehensive assessments of speech and language abilities.

We discovered that neural indices characterize and distinguish various aspects of linguistic processing that develop in childhood and adolescence. Furthermore, we have demonstrated that electrophysiological and behavioral measures reveal differences in underlying processing of linguistic information in communicatively impaired populations, including children with language impairments and adults and children who stutter. We have also discovered how subtle, as well as clinically ascertained behavioral differences in language proficiency are reflected in neural patterns of activity elicited by linguistic stimuli. The converging evidence from our research program (across typical and disordered groups, across different points in development, and across different language tasks) indicates that neural activity for language processing is highly sensitive to developmental factors, experience, proficiency, and the type and complexity of linguistic information that is being processed. As our understanding about brain functions for language continues to evolve, our work will ultimately help establish how our differences as individuals, with our unique experiential and proficiency profiles are mediated by functioning of specific neural systems for language. Finally, our work will help to elucidate which neural functions characterize less efficient language processing systems in individuals who stutter and those with language impairments, and when these differences arise during development in these populations. Results such as these are critical for future development of improved treatment of these and other communication disorders.

Selected Publications:

Kaganovich, N., Hampton, A. & Weber-Fox, C. (in press). Non-linguistic auditory processing and working memory update in pre-school children who stutter: An electrophysiological study. Developmental Neuropsychology.

Smith, A, Sadagopan, N., Walsh, B., & Weber-Fox. C. (in press). Phonological complexity affects speech motor dynamics in adults who stutter. Journal of Fluency Disorders.

Sasisekaran, J., Smith, A., Sadagopan, N., & Weber-Fox, C. (in press). Nonword repetition in children and adults: Effects on movement coordination. Developmental Science, (available online, September 2009).

Basu, M., Krishnan, R., & Weber-Fox, C. (2010). Degraded brainstem representations of tonal sweeps in children with specific language impairment. Developmental Science, 13, 77-91.

Malaia, E., Wilbur, R., & Weber-Fox, C. (2009). ERP evidence for conceptual event structure effects on syntactic processing. Brain and Language, 108, 145-158.

Hampton, A., & Weber-Fox, C. (2008) Nonlinguistic auditory processing in adults who stutter. Journal of Fluency Disorders, 33 (4), 253-330.

Weber-Fox, C., & Hampton, A. (2008). Stuttering and natural speech processing of semantic and syntactic constraints on verbs. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 51(5), 1058-1071.

Weber-Fox, C., Spruill, J. E. III, Spencer, R., & Smith, A. (2008). Atypical neural functions underlying phonological processing and silent rehearsal in children who stutter. Developmental Science, 11(2), 321-337.

Kemmerer, D., Weber-Fox*, C., Price, K., Zdansczk, C., & Way, H. (2007). Big brown dog or brown big dog? An electrophysiological study of semantic constraints on pronominal adjective order. Brain and Language, 100 (3), 238-256.

Walsh, B., Smith, A., Weber-Fox, C. (2006). Short-term plasticity in children̢۪s speech motor systems. Developmental Psychobiology, 48 (8), 660-674.

Weber-Fox, C., Davis, L, & Spruill, J. E. (2006). Effects of grammatical categories on children̢۪s visual language processing: Evidence from event-related brain potentials. Brain and Language, 98 (1), 26-39.

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