Lee Osterhout

Image of Lee Osterhout

Lee Osterhout, Ph.D.

Emeritus Professor
(206) 543-4177
Guthrie 225
Advising: Does not accept or train psychology graduate students.
Interests: Psycholinguistics, Cognitive Neuroscience


In our lab, we use the tools of cognitive neuroscience to investigate the cognitive and neural underpinnings of human language. The primary method used in our lab involves recording event-related brain potentials (ERPs) from the scalp while people read or listen to language. ERPs reflect the summed, simultaneously occurring postsynaptic activity in large groups of pyramidal neurons in neocortex. Unlike other brain-based measures such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), ERPs provide a continuous,millisecond-by-millisecond record of the brain's electrical activity. Using this method, we have learned, for example, that the brain responds differently to anomalies involving sentence structure (syntax) and sentence meaning(semantics). We have subsequently used these language-sensitive ERP effects to investigate many aspects of language comprehension, including changes in brain activity that are associated with second-language acquisition, individual differences in the processing of complex sentences, and the neurobiological manifestations of linguistically encoded social stereotypes.


Tufts University (1990)

  • Osterhout, L., McLaughlin, J., Kim, A., & Inoue, K. (in press). Sentences in the brain: Event-related potentials as real-time reflections of sentence comprehension and language learning. In M. Carreiras & C. Clifton, Jr. (eds.), The on-line study of sentence comprehension: Eyetracking, ERP, and beyond. Psychology Press.
  • McLaughlin, J., Osterhout, L., & Kim, A. (2004). Neural correlates of second-language word learning: minimal instruction produces rapid change. Nature Neuroscience, 7, 703-704.
  • McKinnon, R., Allen, M., & Osterhout, L. (2003). Morphological decomposition involving non-productive morphemes: ERP Evidence. NeuroReport, 14, 883-886.
  • Osterhout, L., McLaughlin, J., Allen, M., & Inoue, K. (2002). Brain potentials elicited by prose-embedded linguistic anomalies. Memory and Cognition, 30, 1304-1312.