My research involves using computational modeling, complemented by empirical
studies, to investigate the nature of normal and disordered cognitive
processing in the domains of reading, language, and semantics. My modeling
work is cast within a connectionist or parallel distributed processing
framework, in which cognitive processes are implemented in terms of
cooperative and competitive interactions among large numbers of simple,
neuron-like processing units. These models provide new ways of thinking
about how cognitive processes are implemented in the brain, and how disorders
of brain function lead to disorders of cognition. I'm particularly
interested in studying the effects of damage in connectionist networks as a
way of understanding the nature of cognitive impairments that can arise
following brain damage, and in exploring ways of retraining damaged networks
with the goal of helping to design more effective strategies for patient
rehabilitation. I'm also interested in the implications of connectionist
learning principles for the nature of normal and abnormal cognitive
Much of my work has focused on word reading, both in normal skilled readers
and in brain-damaged patients with acquired reading disorders. My colleagues
and I have developed connectionist models that exhibit many of the central
characteristics of skilled reading, including the influences of word frequency
and spelling-sound consistency on the time to pronounce words and the ability
to pronounce word-like nonsense letter strings (e.g., MAVE) and to distinguish
them from real words in lexical decision tasks (Plaut, 1997; Plaut et al.,
1996). When the models are damaged in various ways, they exhibit the
major forms of acquired dyslexia, including deep dyslexia in which
patients make semantic errors in reading aloud (e.g., misreading YACHT as
"boat") and surface dyslexia in which patients produce regularization
errors to exception words (e.g., misreading YACHT as "yatched") (Plaut &
Shallice, 1993; Woollams et al.,
Moreover, retraining the damaged models yields patterns of
recovery and generalization that are qualitatively similar to those found in
cognitive rehabilitation studies and has, in one instance, generated a
specific prediction concerning the design of more effective therapy for
1996) that has recently received empirical support (Kiran & Thompson,
Although our work on reading continues (e.g., Kello & Plaut,
2003; Sibley et
al., 2008), we have also made progress on a number of other
language-related issues, including:
1) early language acquisition and the development of phonological
representations through the interplay of speech comprehension and production
(Plaut & Kello,
& Plaut, 2004);
2) cross-linguistic differences in morphological processing
Velan et al., 2005);
3) semantic and associative priming effects in naming and lexical decision (Plaut & Booth,
4) patterns of semantic impairments among brain-damaged patients, and their
implications for the degree of functional specialization within the semantic
& Plaut, 2002; Plaut, 2002); and
5) sentence-level acquisition and processing and the interplay of syntax and
& Plaut, 1999,
Additional work extends the same computational principles to issues in normal
and impaired routine sequential action (Botvinick &
Plaut, 2004) and to verbal short-term memory
& Plaut, 2006).
- Botvinick, M., and Plaut, D. C. (2006).
Short-term memory for serial order: A recurrent neural network model.
Psychological Review, 113, 201-233.
[Bowers, J. S., Damian, M. F., and Davis, C. J. (2009).
A fundamental limitation of the conjunctive codes learned in PDP
models of cognition: Comment on Botvinick and Plaut (2006).
Psychological Review, 116, 986-997.
Botvinick, M., and Plaut, D. C. (2009).
Empirical and computational support for context-dependent representations of
serial order: Reply to Bowers, Damian and Davis (2009).
Psychological Review, 116, 998-1002.]
- Botvinick, M., and Plaut, D. C. (2004).
Doing without schema hierarchies: A recurrent connectionist approach to
normal and impaired routine sequential action.
Psychological Review, 111, 395-429.
[Cooper, R. P., and Shallice, T. (2006).
Hierarchical schemas and goals in the control of sequential behavior.
Psychological Review, 113, 887-916.
Structured representations in the control of behavior cannot be so easily
dismissed: A reply to Botvinick and Plaut (2006), 929-931.
Botvinick, M., and Plaut, D. C. (2006).
Such stuff as habits are made on: A reply to Cooper and Shallice (2006).
Psychological Review, 113, 917-928.]
- Plaut, D. C. (2002).
Graded modality-specific specialization in semantics:
A computational account of optic aphasia.
Cognitive Neuropsychology, 19, 603-639.
Plaut, D. C., and Booth, J. R. (2000).
Individual and developmental differences in semantic priming: Empirical and
computational support for a single-mechanism account of lexical processing.
Psychological Review, 107, 786-823.
[Borowsky, R., and Besner, D. (2006).
Parallel distributed processing and lexical-semantic effects in visual
word recognition: Are a few stages necessary?
Psychological Review, 113, 181-195.
Plaut, D. C., and Booth, J. R. (2006).
More modeling but still no stages: Reply to Borowsky and Besner.
Psychological Review, 113, 196-200.]
Plaut, D. C., McClelland, J. L., Seidenberg, M. S., and Patterson, K. (1996).
Understanding normal and impaired word reading: Computational principles in
Psychological Review, 103, 56-115.
Full list of publications.
Last modified: Sun Feb 24 13:07:15 EST 2013