Director: Michael McCloskey

Research Topics

Research in the lab focuses on normal and impaired cognitive functioning in the areas of:

  • Reading, spelling, and writing
  • Visual perception and cognition

We are also interested in:

  • Memory and amnesia
  • Numerical cognition and dyscalculia
  • Foundational issues in cognitive neuropsychology and cognitive science.

Our goals are to:

  • Understand the mental representations and processes underlying these cognitive functions
  • Understand how these representations and processes are disrupted when the brain is damaged or fails to develop normally
  • Apply the knowledge gained about normal and impaired functioning to the development of effective remediations


We bring a variety of methods to bear on these issues, including:

  • Cognitive neuropsychological studies of brain-damaged adults
  • Cognitive neuropsychological studies of children with learning disabilities
  • Behavioral studies of normal children and adults
  • Computational modeling
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
  • Event-related potentials (ERP)

Research Projects & Lab News

Congratulations, Dr. Chaisilprungraung!

Photo of Pang Chaisilprungraung

Pang Chaisilprungraung successfully passed her defense and finished her PhD degree. Her dissertation was entitled Axes in Object-Centered Shape Representation: Insights from Mirror-Image Reflection Errors. Pang is headed next to a postdoc research fellowship at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. Brava, Pang! …Read More>>

Congratulations, Dr. Ellenblum!

Photo of Gali Ellenblum

Lab member Gali Ellenblum successfully passed her defense and finished her PhD Degree. Her dissertation was entitled Cognitive and Computational Modeling of Handwriting. She accepted an offer from Apple to work as a Machine Learning Engineer! Congrats, Gali!

Developmental Dysgraphia

Image of Developmental Dysgraphia cover

Drs. Brenda Rapp and Michael McCloskey were co-editors of the recently published book entitled Developmental Dysgraphia. This volume brings together, for the first time, theoretically grounded and methodologically rigorous research on developmental dysgraphia, presented alongside reviews of the typical development of spelling and writing skills.

The Devil’s in the g-tails

This fun study shows how most people are essentially unaware of the more common version of the lowercase print letter “g” and explores the possible implications. The paper was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, authored by junior Kimberly Wong, alum Frempongma Wadee (A&S ’17 BA), grad student Gali Elenblum… Read more »

Kim Wong receives a STAR award!

Cognitive science major Kim Wong, a sophomore, was chosen to receive a STAR funding award for summer research in our lab. Congratulations Kim!

How a woman with amnesia defies conventional wisdom about memory

The sharp contrasts in this patient’s memory profile—her inability to remember facts about pursuits once vital to her life as an artist, musician, and amateur aviator, while clearly remembering facts relevant to performing in these domains—suggest conventional wisdom about how the brain stores knowledge is incorrect. The findings are now available online.

Life Lines: An Artist with Amnesia

Drs. McCloskey and Landau research an amnesic artist. A virus essentially obliterated an artist’s hippocampus, and she can no longer recall what happened five minutes earlier. Her life has become an endless series of jump cuts.

Tricking the brain to read

Cognitive scientists devise alphabets that allow subjects to read again — an article published in the Johns Hopkins Gazette on Dr. McCloskey’s research.

Early Levels of Representation in Reading

This project explores the early stages of visual word recognition, in which the stimulus word is processed to determine the identities and positions of the individual letters. We are studying the reading abilities of a patient with acquired dyslexia—a reading disorder resulting from brain damage—to gain insight into letter shape, identity, and position representations.

Discovering and Treating a New Form of Reading Impairment

Magnetic resonance angiogram

We have discovered a previously unknown perceptual deficit that selectively affects the ability to see letters and numbers. Two cases of the impairment (which we are calling Alphanumeric Visual Awareness Disorder, or AVAD) have been identified, and we are actively searching for additional cases, probing the causes and consequences of the disorder, and working to… Read more »