Malathi Thothathiri

Malathi Thothathiri headshot
Associate Professor
Room 203
Hall of Government
2115 G Street NW
Washington, District Of Columbia 20052
[email protected]
Neuroscience of Language Lab

Areas of Expertise

Neural bases of language

Interaction between language and other cognitive processes

Language acquisition

Malathi Thothathiri is an Associate Professor in the Speech and Hearing Science department at GWU. Her research focuses on the neural basis of language and other higher level cognitive functions. Studies in the lab examine three different populations (healthy adults, patients with brain lesions, typically developing children) and employ neuroimaging (fMRI), eye-tracking, and other behavioral methods. Important research questions include the role of language experience in shaping language use, the neural basis of sentence production and language processing, and the interaction between language and cognitive control (or executive function).

Current Research

The Neuroscience of Language lab investigates how we understand and produce sentences.  Important questions include:

  • What role do different brain regions play in syntactic processing? Are these roles specific to language or more general?
  • How are different components of language comprehension and production impacted with brain damage?
  • How and when do children learn the syntax of their native language?


  • Ph.D. in Psychology, 2008, Harvard University



Thothathiri, M., & Braiuca, M. C. (2020). Distributional learning in English: The effect of verb-specific biases and verb-general semantic mappings on sentence production. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition. Advance online publication.

Thothathiri, M. (2018). Statistical experience and individual cognitive differences modulate neural activity during sentence production. Brain and Language, 183, 47-53.

Thothathiri, M., Asaro, C.T., Hsu, N.S., & Novick, J.M. (2018). Who did what? A causal role for cognitive control in thematic role assignment during sentence comprehension. Cognition, 178, 162-177.

Thothathiri, M., & Mauro, K.L. (2017). The relationship between short-term memory, conflict resolution, and sentence comprehension impairments in aphasia. Aphasiology.

Thothathiri, M., & Rattinger, M. (2015). Ventral and dorsal streams for choosing word order during sentence production. PNAS. 112 (50), 15456-15461. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1514711112.

Additional publications

Professional Activities

Fellow, Psychonomic Society

Member, Cognitive Neuroscience Society

Member, Society for the Neurobiology of Language

Classes Taught

  • SPHR 3116: Brain and Language
  • SPHR 1071: The Foundations of Human Communication
  • SPHR 2131: Language Acquisition