Prof. Michal Lavidor is a Professor in the Department of Psychology. Research in her lab focuses on the neural basis of language and includes work on hemisphere-based language processes, visual word recognition, gestures, prosody, orthographic language processing, perceptual priming, and the perception of time and numbers.
While functional hemispheric asymmetries in information processing have been known for some time, recent research has focused on the specific ways in which the two cerebral hemispheres collaborate in the processing of complex stimuli.
Lavidor and her team investigate the prerequisites of interhemispheric cooperation in word recognition and explore cognitive processes related to the recognition of emotions encoded in gestures, as well as the variations of stress, tone, and timing characteristic of spoken language.
In addition to applying behavioral and ERP methods to study interhemispheric cooperation and its underlying neural correlates, Lavidor and her team develop brain stimulation protocols to enhance interhemispheric cooperation and ultimately improve cognitive functions involved in word and emotion recognition.
Using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a non-invasive technique for mapping and manipulating brain function, as well as direct neurostimulation via electrodes, Lavidor and her team examine interhemispheric asymmetry during complex cognitive tasks. They explore several cognitive tasks, mostly within the language domain but also related to cognitive control, emotional gestures and prosody.
Together with collaborators, Prof. Lavidor studies the common basis of words and gestures. Lavidor and her team explore functionality through a priming paradigm, as priming effects may reflect whether a gesture and a congruent word share a semantic representation.
They administer magnetic stimulation in the left hemisphere brain region known as Broca’s area, in order to elucidate whether Broca’s area is involved in gestural comprehension. Their research in this area will shed light on the question of whether gestures represent an evolutionary precursor of language, and will ultimately lead to a more complete understanding of the neurocognitive mechanisms that enable the comprehension of gestures in natural language.
Lavidor and her team study the brains of brain-damaged patients and healthy elderly individuals who are experiencing cognitive difficulties. Using a non-invasive therapy called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) they place two electrodes on the skull, which provide sub-threshold stimulation that increases the likelihood that neurons will “fire.”
Lavidor and her team have demonstrated that this enhancement of brain activity – together with interactive training – can significantly improve cognitive and linguistic performance.