#snlmtg17photo contest winners!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the unofficial photo contest at the Society for the Neurobiology of Language conference! There were a lot of great entries but I've managed to select some winners.

Grand prize

The top prize goes to Ethan Weed for this beautiful picture of a brain coral. This ticks all the boxes: a beautiful picture, from a memorable reception, and...BRAINS (even if they're coral)!

Runners up

Conference photo contest! #snlmtg17photo

Going to the annual meeting of the Society for the Neurobiology of Language in Baltimore? Get ready for the first ever conference photo contest! Show off your artistic skill, sense of humor, and creativity while at the conference.


  1. Enter by posting a photo on twitter with the hashtag #snlmtg17photo between 9am (Eastern Time) Tuesday, November 7th and Noon on Friday November 10th, 2017.
  2. The photo must be taken while attending the Society for the Neurobiology of Language meeting (to keep it fun) but can be from any location (including travel to or from Baltimore).
  3. You can enter as many times as you would like.
  4. There are no restrictions on filters, collages, stickers, or any other manipulation to the photo.
  5. Judging will be entirely subjective and done by me (@jpeelle) although I may ask for some unofficial input from a secret panel of helper judges. Members of my lab are ineligible for prizes (but can still post photos).


Let's be honest—the main prize is bragging rights and the admiration of your friends when I announce it on Twitter. The grand prize will also include a certificate and some small token of appreciation.


This is just for fun and completely unofficial and unendorsed by the society. Please don't do anything stupid or dangerous or inappropriate to get a cool photograph.


Graduating seniors 2017

This year we bid goodbye to a record number of graduating seniors: Nisha, Nisha, Joseph, Jonathan, Rebecca, and Tracy. And to our AuD student Jeni, who completed her capstone research project and is off to an externship next year. Thanks to all of you for your contributions to the lab over the past few years! You'll be missed!

New paper: concept representation and the dynamic multilevel reactivation framework (Reilly et al.)

I'm fortunate to have as a collaborator Jamie Reilly, who over the past decade has been spearheading an effort to deepen our understanding about how the brain represents concepts (i.e., semantic memory). Our review paper out in Psychonomic Bulletin and Review (Reilly et al., 2016) puts forth the current version of the dynamic multilevel reactivation framework. (It's part of a special issue on concept representation that contains a number of interesting articles.) 

Recent years have seen increasing interest in the idea that concept representations depend in part on modality-specific representation in or near sensory and motor cortex. For example, our concept of a bell includes something about the acoustic sound of a bell ringing, which this view suggests is supported by regions coding auditory information. Information from different modalities would also need to be bound together, perhaps in heteromodal regions such as the angular gyrus (Bonner et al., 2013; Price et al., 2015). (Interestingly, Wernicke proposed much the same thing well over 100 years ago, as related in Gage & Hickok 2005. Smart guy!)

A distributed semantics view has intuitive appeal for many aspects of concrete concepts for which we can easily imagine sensory details associated with an object. However, it is much more difficult to apply this distributed sensorimotor approach to abstract concepts such as "premise" or "vapid". Similar challenges arise for encyclopedic (verbal) knowledge. These difficulties suggest that distributed sensorimotor representations are not the only thing supporting semantic memory. An alternative view focuses more on amodal semantic "hub" regions that integrate information across modalities. The existence of hub regions is supported by cases such as semantic dementia (i.e., the semantic variant of primary progressive aphasia), in which patients lose access to concepts regardless of how those concepts are tested. Reconciling the evidence in support of distributed vs. hub-like representations has been one of the most interesting challenges in contemporary semantic memory research.

In our recent paper, we suggest that concepts are represented in a high dimensional semantic space that encompasses both concrete and abstract concepts. Representations can be selectively activated depending on task demands. Our difficult-to-pronounce but accurate name for this is the "dynamic multilevel reactivation framework" (DMRF).

Although the nature of the link between sensorimotor representations and linguistic knowledge needs to be further clarified, we think a productive way forward will be models of semantic memory that parsimoniously account for both "concrete" and "abstract" concepts within a unified framework.


Bonner MF, Peelle JE, Cook PA, Grossman M (2013) Heteromodal conceptual processing in the angular gyrus. NeuroImage 71:175-186. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.01.006 (PDF)

Gage N, Hickok G (2005) Multiregional cell assemblies, temporal binding and the representation of conceptual knowledge in cortex: A modern theory by a "classical" neurologist, Carl Wernicke. Cortex 41:823-832. doi:10.1016/S0010-9452(08)70301-0

Price AR, Bonner MF, Peelle JE, Grossman M (2015) Converging evidence for the neuroanatomic basis of combinatorial semantics in the angular gyrus. Journal of Neuroscience 35:3276-3284. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3446-14.201 (PDF)

Reilly J, Peelle JE, Garcia A, Crutch SJ (2016) Linking somatic and symbolic representation in semantic memory: The dynamic multilevel reactivation framework. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review. doi:10.3758/s13423-015-0824-5 (PDF)