Evelina (Ev) Fedorenko is an Associate Professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Frederick A. (1971) and Carole J. Middleton Career Development Associate Professor of Neuroscience, and an Investigator in the McGovern Institute for Brain Research. She also holds an appointment in the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and is affiliated with the Harvard-MIT Program in Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology. Prior to joining MIT, she spent 5 years as faculty at MGH and Harvard Medical School, supported by an NIH Pathway to Independence K99/R00 award. She received a Ph.D. in Cognitive Science from the MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences in 2007 and an A.B. in Psychology and Linguistics from Harvard University in 2002.
Fedorenko investigates how people understand and produce language. She uses behavioral and brain imaging (fMRI, ERP, MEG) methods in healthy adults and patients with developmental and acquired brain disorders, as well as intracranial recordings and stimulation in neurosurgical patients, and, more recently, computational modeling. Fedorenko has shown that the language network is selective for language processing over diverse non-linguistic processes that have been argued to share computational demands with language; that syntactic processing is not localized to a particular region within the language network, and every brain region that responds to syntactic processing is at least as sensitive to word meanings; and that semantic composition, rather than syntactic structure building, may be the core driver of the language-selective brain regions. In ongoing work, Fedorenko is probing the time-course, effective connectivity, and causal mechanisms of language processing using intracranial recordings and stimulation; applying computational approaches, including state-of-the art decoding, and deep neural nets to develop a precise model of what the language brain regions are doing; examining non-literal (pragmatic) processing given that much of language comprehension goes beyond the literal string of words; relating inter-individual variability in neural language markers to behavior and genetics; and probing the cognitive and neural architecture of individuals with exceptional linguistic talent (e.g., “hyper-polyglots”).
Fedorenko plans to teach classes in the areas of cognitive neuroscience, psycholinguistics / language processing, and developmental and acquired language disorders, as well as more narrowly focused seminars on topics like pragmatics, syntax, language and brain evolution, bi/multi-lingualism, the minds and brains of exceptional individuals, and how genes affect the brain and cognition.
Fedorenko, E., Behr, M. & Kanwisher, N. (2011). Functional specificity for high-level linguistic processing in the human brain. PNAS, 108(39), 16428-16433.
Fedorenko, E., Duncan, J. & Kanwisher, N. (2012). Language-selective and domain-general regions lie side by side within Broca’s area. Current Biology, 22(21), 2059-2062.
Fedorenko, E., Scott, T., Brunner, P., Coon, W.G., Pritchett, B., Schalk, G. & Kanwisher, N. (2016). A neural correlate of the construction of sentence meaning. PNAS, 113(41), E6256-E6262.
Blank, I. & Fedorenko, E. (2017). Domain-general brain regions do not track linguistic input as closely as language-selective regions. Journal of Neuroscience, 37(41), 9999-10011.
Pereira, F., Lou, B., Pritchett, B., Ritter, S., Gershman, S.J., Kanwisher, N., Botvinick, M. & Fedorenko, E. (2018). Toward a universal decoder of linguistic meaning from brain activation. Nature Communications, 9, article 963.