Newsletter Article

Understanding what makes the individual unique

Photo:  Dr. Chantel Prat
Photo:  Dr. Chantel Prat

Our newest faculty member, Chantel Prat, joined us in September 2010 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and a member of the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences. In many psychological studies, investigators try to “average out” individual differences by measuring the behavior of many individuals. But, we all appreciate our unique cognitive abilities – whether it’s an individual’s particular abilities in math or a particular facility with second language acquisition. What forms the bases of these individual differences? Chantel’s research emphasizes an understanding of the neural basis of individual differences with a particular focus on language comprehension abilities.  Her current research employs the combination of multiple neuroimaging techniques –  including fMRI to assess neural activity, transcranial magnetic stimulation to selectively and temporally disrupt activity, and diffusion tensor imaging to assess brain connectivity patterns – along with traditional behavioral paradigms to investigate the neural basis of individual differences in language and cognition. 

Chantel earned her Ph.D. at the University of California, Davis, working with Debra Long on investigations of individual differences in representation of discourse in the two cerebral hemispheres, and trained subsequently with Marcel Just at Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging.  At Carnegie Mellon, she was awarded the prestigious NIH Pathway to Independence Award. This award provides two-years of postdoctoral funding and three years of principal investigator funding for new faculty. In addition, Chantel was recently awarded the Society for Text and Discourse’s Tom Trabasso Young Investigator Award for 2011. We are fortunate to have her join our Department.