Research interests:

My research focuses on understanding the roots of language acquisition, by studying speech perception in infancy, the mechanisms by which native speech sound categories are acquired, and how speech perception supports early word learning. In my lab we study infants from hours after birth up to toddler hood using behavioral, electrophysiological (ERP), and non-invasive optical neural imaging using near-infrared-spectroscopy (NIRS). We study infants growing up in different language environments, infants growing up bilingual, and infants with, or at risk for, developmental disabilities. Adult studies focus on speech perception and lexical processing of both spoken language and visual speech, and involve behavioral and neuroimaging studies. More recently, in collaboration, I have also begun exploring the nature of critical periods, and epigenetic processes that underlie developmental change.

Janet Werker is also part of the Early Development Research Group, a consortium of six research centers interested in the development of language, learning, and social understanding in infants and children.

Byers-Heinlein, K. & Werker, J.F. (2013) Lexicon Structure and the Disambiguation of Novel Words: Evidence from Bilingual Infants. Cognition, 128(3), 407-16. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2013.05.010

Gervain, J. & Werker, J. F. (2013). Prosody cues word order in 7-month-old bilingual infants. Nature Communications, 4. doi:10.1038/ncomms2430

Yeung, H. H. & Werker, J. F. (2013). Lip movements affect infant audiovisual speech perception. Psychological Science, 24(5), 603-612. doi: 10.1177/0956797612458802

Weikum, W. M., Oberlander, T. F., Hensch, T. K. & Werker, J. F. (2012). Prenatal exposure to antidepressants and depressed maternal mood alter trajectory of infant speech perception. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1121263109

Sebastian-Galles, Albareda, B., Weikum, W., & Werker, J. F. (2012). A bilingual advantage in visual language discrimination in infancy. Psychological Science. 23(9), 994-999.

Pena, M., Werker, J. F., & Dehaene-Lambertz, G. (2012). Earlier speech exposure does not accelerate speech acquisition. Journal of Neuroscience. 32(33), 11159-11163.

Werker, J.F., Yeung, H. H., & Yoshida, K. (2012). How do infants become experts at native speech perception? Current Directions in Psychological Science. 21(4), 221-226.

Gervain, J., Mehler, J., Werker, J.F., Nelson, C.A., Csibra, C., Lloyd-Fox, S., Shukla, M., & Aslin, R.N. (2011). Near-Infrared Spectroscopy: A Report from the McDonnell Infant Methodology Consortium. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 1(1), 22-46. doi: 10.1016/j.dcn.2010.07.004

Winter 2018

PSYC302 Infancy Sections

Human cognition, perception, motor, social, emotional needs, brain development and their interactions from birth until the emergence of language.

Dr. Janet F. Werker is Professor and Canada Research Chair in the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia. Werker is internationally recognized for her research investigating the perceptual foundations of language acquisition in both monolingual and bilingual learning infants. Her over 150 papers and chapters, have appeared in prestigious journals including Science, Nature, Nature Communications, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Journal of Neuroscience, Psychological Science, and Cognition as well as in the premier journals in developmental psychology, language, and perception. Her awards include, the Killam Research Prize, the UBC Alumni Prize in Social Sciences, the Jacob Bieley Prize (UBC’s premier research prize), and the Anne L. Brown Award in Developmental Psychology. She is a Fellow of the Canadian Institutes for Advanced Research, the Royal Society of Canada, the Canadian Psychological Association, The American Psychological Society, the Cognitive Science Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her research is funded by NSERC, SSHRC, and CIFAR in Canada, and by the NIH in the U.S. Previous funding sources include the Human Frontiers Science Program, the James S. McDonnell Foundation, and NTT Laboratories.