Lauren Emberson
Human Neuroscience
Human Neuroscience

Assistant Professor of Psychology.

Ph.D., Cornell University, 2011
Associated Faculty

Research: Development of perceptual and learning systems.
Research Lab
227 Peretsman Scully Hall

Research Focus

We often think of learning as something we do in classrooms. However, unbeknownst to us, our brains are constantly learning and adapting to better anticipate and meaningfully interpret the sensory information that we get from the world. My research shows that even very young infants have this incredible ability and use it to develop sophisticated perceptual skills that reflect the structure of their world. These experience-based changes in perception form the foundation for essential perceptual-cognitive abilities: Language comprehension is supported by changes in speech perception, and social cognition relies on the development of face perception.

My research investigates how infants’ perceptual systems (visual and auditory) and learning systems work together during new experiences to support development.  To uncover the interrelationships between perception, learning, and experience, I employ a variety of methods ranging from behavioral tasks to eye-tracking to functional neuroimaging measures (fNIRS--see below, fMRI) with infants as young as a couple months old.

I use a technique called functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) which allows us to get a peek into the infant brain as it changes and develops! FNIRS is an emerging neuroimaging technology that is ideally suited for studying infant development. It uses very low levels of near-infrared light (less than an infant would receive going from a car to a building) to record changes in neural activity in the surface of the infant brain. FNIRS records a signal that is physiologically very similar to the signals recorded using fMRI. Importantly, this technique is extremely safe for infants (e.g., same technique monitors oxygenation of babies in the NICU) and so comfortable that they happily wear the NIRS cap and continue exploring the world around them. fNIRS allows us to get a glimpse into how a baby’s brain changes when they have new experiences!

Selected Publications

  • Zhang, Y.†, Jaffe-Dax, S.†, Wilson, R., & Emberson, L. L. (in press). Prediction in infants and adults: A pupillometry study, Developmental Science
  • Emberson, L. L., Boldin, A.,† Robertson, C.†, Cannon, G.‡ & Aslin, R. N. (in press). Expectation Affects Neural Repetition Suppression in Infancy. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Boldin, A.†, Geiger, R.‡ & Emberson, L. L. (2018). The Emergence of Top-Down, Sensory Prediction During Learning in Infancy: A Comparison of Full-term and Preterm Infants, Developmental Psychobiology, 60(5), 544-556.
  • Reuter, T.†, Emberson, L. L., Romberg, A., & Lew-Williams, C. (2018). Individual differences in nonverbal prediction and vocabulary size in infancy, Cognition, 176, 215-219.
  • Kersey, A. J.†, & Emberson, L. L. (2017). Tracing Trajectories of Audio-visual Learning in the Infant Brain, Developmental Science, 20(6), e12480.
  • Karuza, E. A., Emberson, L. L., Roser, M., Aslin, R. N., Cole, D. & Fiser, J. (2017). Neural signatures of spatial statistical learning: Characterizing the extraction of structure from complex visual scenes. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 29(12): 1963-1976.
  • Zinszer, B. D., Bayet, L., Emberson, L. L., Raizada, R. D. S., & Aslin, R. N. (2017). Decoding semantic representations from functional near-infrared spectroscopy signals. Neurophotonics: sfNIRS 2016 Special Issue, 5 (1): 011003.
  • Emberson, L. L., Rizzieri, A.‡, & Aslin, R. N. (2017). How Visual is Visual Prediction? Infancy, 22(6): 748-761.
  • Emberson, L. L.*, Zinszer, B. D.*, Raizaza, R. D. S., & Aslin, R. N. (2017). Decoding the Infant Mind: Multichannel Pattern Analysis (MCPA) using fNIRS, PLoS One, 12(4): e0172500. *these authors contributed equally to this publication
  • Emberson, L. L., Crosswhite, S. L.†, Richards, J. E., & Aslin, R. N. (2017). The Lateral Occipital Cortex Is Selective for Object Shape, Not Texture/Color, at 6 Months, The Journal of Neuroscience, 37(13), 3698-3703.
  • Emberson, L. L. (2017). How Does Experience Support Development? Considering the Role of Top-Down Mechanisms. In Janette Benson (Ed.), Advances in Child Development and Behavior (Vol. 52, pp. 1-42). Elsevier: Cambridge, MA.
  • Emberson, L. L., Boldin, A.†, Riccio, J. E., Guillet, R., & Aslin, R. N. (2017). Deficits in Top-Down, Sensory Prediction in Infants At-Risk due to Premature Birth. Current Biology, 27, 1-6.
  • Emberson, L. L., Palmeri, H.†, Cannon, G.‡, Richards, J. E. & Aslin, R. N. (2017). Using fNIRS to Examine Occipital and Temporal Responses to Repetition in Young Infants: Evidence of Selective Frontal Cortex Involvement, Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 23, 26-38

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