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Updated on May 20, 2013

Grade Level: 9th - 11th; Type: Psychology/Neurosciences


To investigate how the brain processes language and identify areas requiring future research.

Research Questions:

  • How do we define language?
  • What is psycholinguistics?
  • What is neurolinguistics?
  • How do the two disciplines (neurolinguistics and psycho linguistics) complement each other?
  • What part of the brain processes language?
  • What are the functions of Boca’s area and of Wernicke`s area?
  • How do we currently explain how the brain processes language?
  • How do different species of organisms communicate? Whales? Dolphins, Butterflies, Birds?
  • What is aphasia?
  • What is dyslexia?
  • What is syntax?
  • What do we mean when we say a trait or function is “hard-wired”?
  • What are some of the theories of how language has originated and works in the brain?
  • What is Dr. Chomsky`s theory on the origin and development of language?
  • What were the early views about the origin of language (e.g. those held by Jean Piaget)?
  • How is eye tracking used in the study of language processing?
  • What are some of the neuroimaging techniques being used today?
  • What is the DRC model of reading?
  • What does the field of aphasiology research?
  • To what extent do we benefit from studying people with language deficits that arise from brain damage?
  • Other than language, what are the other means by which we communicate? Review them. Are they equally effective? Less effective?

On the informational level, the student will be introduced to what we currently know about how the brain processes language. This project presents an outstanding opportunity for focusing on how the brain transforms man-made symbols such as words into meaningingful concepts. It provides an opportunity to compare how different species of organisms communicate and how critical communication is to the progress of our civilization.

The study of language can be and is fascinating. How do we acquire words? Is it a matter of experience (the people around us, the places we visit, the contacts we make)? Does language evolve, or are we born with that ability?

We think with words. Do these words shape our thoughts, or do our thoughts shape our words? Sounds like a chicken and egg dilemma! Specialists in psycholinguistics and neurolinguistics are examining language and cognition. In this project, students join them in their search for answers. In the process, students may develop a new interest in these interrelated fields.

  • Variety of studies from books and internet and research sites
  • Three section display board
  • Pens
  • Magic markers
  • Access to a computer
  • Paper
  • Copier

Experimental Procedure

  1. You are to assume that you and your classmates have just received an invitation to apply for a grant from a famous foundation which sponsors research in the area of the brain as a processor of language. You and your colleagues are being asked to submit a proposal for a research project that your school would conduct. The funds available are $100,000 for a year. The grant is for a two year period.
  2. Your task is to determine what you plan to do for each of the two years that would (a) educate the students in your school on what we presently know about how the brain works, (b) educate the students about our current knowledge regarding how the brain functions with language, and (c) have the students compile a list of questions to submit for future exploration by experts in these fields.
  3. For tasks a and b, you are asked to submit outlines of what you would cover to educate the student on the topics mentioned above.
  4. Use the list of research questions as your guide and inspiration for constructing your outlines. Make it interesting and fun!
  5. For task c, you are to construct a one page survey form for students to record their ideas for future research.
  6. Pretend you are a student taking the survey and complete one form to display in step 7.
  7. Continuing with this project, you will now place all of the outlines and a copy of your survey on your display board. Make certain to include your book bibliography as well as any internet sources that would serve to further educate the students in your school.
  8. What do you think? Would or could you get a foundation to support this project?

Terms/Concepts: Psycholinguistics; Neurolinguistics; Syntax; Phonetics; Lateralization; Speech centers; Language centers; Boca’s area; Wernicke`s Area; Aphasia; Aphasiology; TRACE model


Dr. Muriel Gerhard (Ed.D.) is a retired educator with fifty seven years of experience in all aspects of public education. She has been a teacher, principal, administrator, college professor, researcher, grants writer, change agent and science editor. She is the author of several books on education used as college texts. These include the best selling Effective Teaching Strategies with the Behavioral Outcomes Approach and The Behavioral Outcomes Handbook for Teachers and Administrators. Presently she is a consultant in science education and curriculum development, a marriage and family therapist, a newspaper columnist and an author. Her latest book, recently published, is a memoir of sixty vignettes entitled "Now That I`m Dead, I Decided to Write this Book".