University of Cambridge
Centre for Speech, Language and the Brain

Centre for Speech, Language and the Brain

Department of Psychology

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Welcome to the CSLB

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The Centre for Speech, Language and the Brain, headed by Professor Lorraine K Tyler, is part of the Department of Psychology at the University of Cambridge. Our interdisciplinary research covers a wide range of issues in the cognitive neuroscience of language, object processing, semantics, the ageing brain and cognition. We integrate behavioural experimental and neuroimaging studies on healthy people, together with similar research on brain-damaged patients.


Postgraduate students

The CSLB welcomes applications from postgraduate students for 2014 entry.

Given the interdisciplinary nature of our research, we particularly welcome applicants with a background in scientific computing, statistics, machine learning and/or signal processing methods. For more information click here.


News from the CSLB

  • 12 May 2014

    Lorraine Tyler features at a global policy Forum: OECD IdeaFactory: A New Age, Paris, May 2014.

    The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) is an inclusive, global policy network set-up to promote better policies for better lives. Their May 2014 Forum in Paris titled ‘Resilient economies for inclusive societies’ gathered international high-level speakers to explore the multifaceted nature of resilience and its applications to global economic and social policy. Lorraine Tyler led discussions within the OECD IdeaFactory on Ageing: A New Age to explore the potential of new approaches and solutions to the demographic shift towards an older population. Alongside 15 other experts, Lorraine Tyler helped guide discussions surrounding the serious challenges of inequality in income, wealth and health in the growing numbers of older people, the need allow people to stay active, work and contribute to society as they grow older, and the opportunity to manage working lives with more flexibility.

    Further information available at the OECD Forum website.


  • 07 April 2014

    New publication in Journal of Neuroscience:
    Alex Clarke and Lorraine K. Tyler used fMRI to show that activation patterns in the human perirhinal cortex encode the semantic nature of individual objects. They used representational similarity analysis (RSA) to investigate the relationship between categorical (e.g. animals, tools) and object-specific semantic representations (e.g. tiger, hammer) in the brain, finding a gradient of informational specificity along the ventral visual pathway from categorical object representations in the posterior ventral stream to object-specific semantic information in the perirhinal cortex. These findings provide a critical advance in our understanding of how the brain represents objects, as most research focuses on how the brain processes different categories of objects (such as animals and tools) rather than the objects themselves. Our research highlight a critical role for the perirhinal cortex in representing semantic information about individual objects.

    You can also check out the journal website or the full article as a PDF.


  • 22 Jan 2014

    Lorraine K. Tyler has been elected as the Sir Frederic Bartlett Lecturer 2015 by the Experimental Psychology Society. First awarded in 1966, the prize is given annually to recognise distinction in experimental psychology or a cognate discipline. Previous recipients include: Professor OL Zangwill, Professor MI Posner, Professor PN Johnson-Laird, Professor Tim Shallice and Professor Annette Karmiloff-Smith. For more information, see the EPS website.


  • 13 Jan 2014

    New publication in the journal Behavior Research Methods:
    Barry Devereux, Lorraine K. Tyler, Jeroen Geertzen, and Billi Randall have recently conducted a large property norming study and have made the resultant set of property norms for 638 concepts publicly available as a free lexical resource. The information being made available in the CSLB property norms, including lexical variation and semantic similarity data, is designed to meet the needs of many different disciplines interested in conceptual knowledge, including cognitive psychology and computational linguistics. We hope that the detail available in the CSLB norms should further promote the development of models of conceptual knowledge.

    The article is available on the journal website, or you can download the full paper as a PDF. The norms themselves can be downloaded at http:\\csl.psychol.cam.ac.uk/propertynorms.


Major themes cross-cutting our research

Neurobiology of spoken language in healthy and brain-damaged populations:

  • Working with healthy people, we develop accounts of the functional relationships between the anatomically distributed regions involved in language processing.
  • Working with brain-damaged patients (in both the acute and chronic phases), we investigate issues of reorganisation and plasticity following brain damage.
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Neurocognitive accounts of conceptual knowledge:

  • How is meaning represented and processed in the mind and brain? We develop cognitive models of conceptual knowledge and investigate how conceptual knowledge is processed in both the healthy and damaged system.
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The ageing brain and cognition:

  • We study language function in normal healthy ageing to determine the relationship between preserved function and neural change.
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Funding initiatives

  • Major new study in brain ageing (Cam-CAN)

    Cam-CANResearch efforts to understand how the brain changes with age, from early to late adulthood, have been given a major boost by a new £5M grant from the BBSRC. The funding has been awarded to a team of scientists from the University of Cambridge Departments of Psychology, Public Health, Psychiatry, Clinical Neurosciences and Engineering, and from the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit. This team, working as the Cambridge Centre for Ageing and Neuroscience (Cam-CAN), brings together world-leading expertise and cutting edge methods to understand how brain ageing in healthy people affects abilities like language, attention, emotion and memory.

    The ageing process does not have a uniform effect across the brain. Older people often struggle, for example, to recall the right word in a conversation, but can continue to expand their vocabulary throughout old age. Understanding what structures in the brain account for this variation will be a crucial first step in allowing more people to retain a range of mental abilities throughout their lives. Professor Lorraine K Tyler, who heads the research team, said "Our mental abilities don't suddenly start to decline as we enter retirement. In fact, many are retained right into our eighties and we are often too quick to attribute normal lapses like forgetfulness to the effects of age. Understanding the complexities of how ageing affects the brain will be crucial for older people to be able to live fulfilled lives and contribute fully to society."

    The study is unique in recruiting 3000 people aged 18-88 years, drawn from the general population, to create a library of information on how healthy brain ageing affects mental abilities to different degrees. Not only will this help identify older people who might be helped by therapies, but will also provide a lasting resource for future researchers to draw on. The research will establish a virtual "brain and behaviour" database which will hold behavioural, MRI and MEG data from a population-representative sample of 700 healthy adults. This will be a valuable, open-access resource for scientists interested in ageing, and a basis for longitudinal study of how our brain and our cognitive abilities change as we grow older.


  • ERC Advanced Investigator grant

    ERCAn ERC Advanced Investigator Grant has been awarded to Professor Lorraine K Tyler. This 5-year programme will support her research programme 'PERCEPCON', investigating how the brain processes visual inputs as meaningful objects.


More about us

The Centre is directed by Professor Lorraine K Tyler, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience and Fellow of Clare College. Researchers at the CSLB come from various academic fields such as cognitive psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, cognitive science, and computer science. We collaborate with scientists at the Department of Psychiatry, the Department of Clinical Neurosciences, the Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute, the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, the Wolfson Brain Imaging Centre, Johns Hopkins University, Pomona College, and University Hospital Basel.

The Centre, formerly called the Centre for Speech and Language, is/has recently been funded by grants from