Dr. Julie A. Van Dyke
I study the miracle of language comprehension. Language is hugely underspecified and typically comes to the comprehender in disconnected bits and pieces. Related information can be separated by many words, sentences, or even paragraphs-- totally amazing that anyone understands anything!
My research seeks to identify the neurocognitive mechanisms that comprehenders use to create complex meaning representations out of those bits and pieces. A primary focus is on characterizing the retrieval system used to access the previously stored information needed to maintain coherence as new information is encountered. A chief finding is that certain contexts create retrieval interference, resulting in faulty or incomplete meaning. I investigate how retrieval failures impact normative comprehension processes and how they contribute to poor comprehension in certain individuals (i.e., those with language or reading impairments, ADHD, or age-related cognitive decline.) Identifying the neurocognitive sources of sensitivity to interference is crucial for understanding the biological roots of linguistic and attention-based disabilities, as well as understanding how and why comprehension ability changes across the life-span.