Distinguished neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene, Professor at the College de France, chair of Experimental Cognitive Psychology, and Director of the INSERM-CEA Cognitive Neuroimaging Unit, will be giving a series of three lectures, generously supported by Dave Baggett.

  • Lecture 1 (11/13, 3pm-6pm) Reading: How literacy changes our brain The acquisition of literacy literally transforms the brain. In this lecture, I will describe recent experiments in which my colleagues and I scanned literate and illiterates adults and children in order to identify which major brain circuits are altered by reading acquisition. The results illuminate the cerebral mechanisms of a major cultural invention, and speak to the debated issue of how reading should be taught.

  • Lecture 2 (11/14, 3pm-6pm) Arithmetic: The brain mechanisms of numeracy Mental arithmetic is the second pillar of early education. I will argue that children's intuitions of number emerge from an evolutionarily ancient 'number sense', which represents quantities in an approximate manner, but acquires a greater precision with the acquisition of number symbols. Recent experiments show that the ancient approximate number system remains dormant even in educated adults.

  • Lecture 3 (11/15, 10am-1pm) Language, music and mathematics: In search of brain mechanisms for syntax Although rudimentary representations of number and symbols may be present in non-human primates, the ability to combine words and symbols into nested syntactic structures seems to be unique to the human brain. In collaboration with Christophe Pallier and Ghislaine Dehaene-Lambertz, we are using brain-imaging methods to explore the cortical representation of the nested structures of language, music and mathematics. Our results constrain the search for a neural code for syntax.