picture of dr. phillip holcomb

Phillip Holcomb, Ph.D


Department of Psychology
San Diego State University
5500 Campanile Drive
San Diego, CA 92182-4611

Office Location: ALV-6505/203

Office and Lab address: 6505 Alvarado Road, Suite 203 San Diego, CA 92120

Email: pholcomb@sdsu.edu

Research Interests & Methods: The brain basis of human cognition, primarily language comprehension and production, using electrophysiological measures.

My research sits squarely at the intersection of Cognitive Science and Neuroscience in the still relatively young discipline of Cognitive Neuroscience. While much of my research is motivated by basic science questions, there are important translational and education implications that my group is interested in pursuing in the coming years. My group is primarily interested in how the human brain accomplishes the amazing task of creating and comprehending language in the real-time environment of everyday conversation. We are capable of the producing and understanding as many as five words per second (that’s one word every 200 ms) using basic information processing units (neurons) that operate on an only slightly faster time scale (~2 to 20 ms). The temporal demands placed on language users, along with the large amount of brain tissue involved in the underlying computations, suggests that language processing defines many of the limits of human cognition. My research is interested in uncovering the underlying processing nature of the brain systems involved in the moment-by moment processes involved in language comprehension and production. We use a number of cutting edge techniques including event-related brain potentials (ERPs), fMRI and MEG to track the time-course of language processes in the brains of normal young adults and children, as well as certain special populations including dyslexia, schizophrenia, and normal/abnormal aging. My lab and collaborators around the world have interests that cut across a variety of topic areas in cognitive neuroscience, but my own research focuses primarily on two related lines of inquiry. In one line we ask questions about the basic neuro-cognitive mechanisms involved in visual and spoken word comprehension. In the second line we address questions about language processing in both fluent bilinguals and university students learning a second language. This research has been continuously supported by the NIH for 25 years and we currently have two grants, one of which supports bilingual research and a second which funds our basic language research. The basic language program was recently cited by the NIH for special notice when I was awarded an R37 MERIT award providing 10 years of funding (over 8 years are remaining). Below I have appended the abstracts from the two grants to give a better idea of the scope of my research program.

Lab: NeuroCognition Lab