SCSB Lunch Series: Conversation in the brain

Friday, April 28, 2023 at 12:00pm to 1:00pm

Simons Center Conference Room 46-6011, 46-6011 43 Vassar Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

Date: Friday, April 28, 2023
Time: 12:00pm – 1:00pm
Location: SCSB Conference room 46-6011 + Zoom Meeting (

Speaker: Halie Olson, Ph.D.
Affiliation: Rebecca Saxe Laboratory, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT

Talk title: Conversation in the brain
Abstract: Elucidating how the brain processes language, especially during early development, is critical for understanding developmental disorders involving social communication such as autism. Beginning early in life, language is encountered and produced in complex, dynamic, and social contexts – and yet, neural measure typically study language in isolation. We developed a multimodal, child-friendly functional neuroimaging task to allow us to measure language-evoked activation in two contexts: (1) observing two people having a conversation, and (2) observing one person at a time speaking directly to the listener. We first validated this measure in adults, finding robust responses to comprehensible language in both contexts. Canonical language regions did not differentiate between the two contexts, but some theory of mind regions, as well as some right hemisphere homologues of language regions, did respond more strongly to dialogue.  In ongoing work, we are using this measure in young children, both as a tool to measure language processing, and as a means to test how language is processed in different social contexts.


Event Type


Events By Interest


Events By Audience

Public, MIT Community, Students, Alumni, Faculty, Staff

Events By School

School of Science




Simons Center for the Social Brain
Contact Email


Add to my calendar

Recent Activity