Hespos, Susan, PhD
Psychology Department; Learning Sciences; Director of Infant Cognition Lab
|Areas of Research||
Behavior Cognition Language
|NU Scholar Profile|
|Recent Publications on PubMed|
My research focuses on change and continuity in cognitive abilities throughout human development. I strive to improve our understanding of the fundamental aspects of cognition through research on object representation, number concept, and the neural mechanisms of object perception. My primary interest is the exploration of the developmental continuity in representation mechanisms and their relation to the core cognitive capacities that develop in infancy and are employed throughout development.
In my work on object representation and prelinguistic spatial categories, I study whether spatial categories emerge independent of language or whether linguistic experience determines category boundaries. My findings suggest that the development of semantics may have parallels to phonological development. More generally, infants may have a set of core perceptual and conceptual capacities that are common to everyone and rich enough to capture the meanings expressed by any language.
In my work on object representation and neural mechanisms, I am applying a new technique for non-invasive measurement of functional blood flow changes to infants. The technique that I use is called near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS). This system measures cerebral hemodynamic response correlated with neural activity. It independently measures temporal changes in oxyhemoglobin and deoxyhemoglobin with a high signal-to-noise ratio. My research objectives are twofold: to obtain comparative data for infant and adult neural mechanisms and to investigate the developing cortical mechanisms of object perception. My goal is to use the NIRS technology as a corroborative measure to gain further insight into the behavioral findings of infants’ object representation. I believe that applying a developmental approach to the study of object knowledge at the behavioral and neural levels will advance our understanding of our core-cognitive capacities.