Malathi Thothathiri

Malathi Thothathiri, Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Assistant Professor
Room 203
Address: Hall of Government
2115 G Street NW
Washington, District Of Columbia
Phone: 202-994-6945
[email protected]

Areas of Expertise

  • Neural bases of language
  • Language acquisition
  • Aphasia
  • Interaction between language and other cognitive processes

Malathi Thothathiri is an Assistant 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 and when do children learn the syntax of their native language?
  • How are different components of language comprehension and production impacted with brain damage?


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


Thothathiri, M. & Rattinger, M. (2016). Acquiring and producing sentences: Whether learners use verb-specific or verb-general information depends on cue validity. Frontiers in Psychology, 7:404. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00404.

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

Thothathiri, M., Rattinger, M., & Trivedi, B. (2015). Cognitive control during sentence generation. Cognitive Neuroscience. doi: 10.1080/17588928.2015.1090421.

Thothathiri, M., & Rattinger, M. (2015). Controlled processing during sequencing. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 9:599. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2015.00599.

Thothathiri, M. (2014). Syntactic/structural priming and language development. In P.J. Brooks and V.Kempe (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Language Development. Sage Publishing.

Thothathiri, M., Gagliardi, M., & Schwartz, M.F. (2012). Subdivision of frontal cortex mechanisms for language production in aphasia. Neuropsychologia, 50(14), 3284-32-3294.

Thothathiri, M., Kim, A., Trueswell, J. C., & Thompson-Schill, S. L. (2012). Parametric effects of syntactic-semantic conflict in Broca’s area during sentence processing. Brain and Language, 120 (3), 259-264. 

Thothathiri, M., Kimberg, D. Y., & Schwartz, M. F. (2012). The neural basis of reversible sentence comprehension: Evidence from voxel-based lesion-symptom mapping in aphasia. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 24, 212-222.

Thothathiri, M., Snedeker, J., & Hannon, E. (2011). The effect of prosody on distributional learning in 12- to 13-month-old infants. Infant and Child Development, 20, n/a. doi: 10.1002/icd.734

Thothathiri, M., Schwartz, M. F., & Thompson-Schill, S. L. (2010). Selection for position: The role of left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex in sequencing language. Brain and Language, 113, 28-38.

Thothathiri, M., & Snedeker, J. (2008). Give and take: syntactic priming during spoken language comprehension. Cognition, 108 (1), 51-68.

Thothathiri, M., & Snedeker, J. (2008). Syntactic priming during language comprehension in three- and four-year-old children. Journal of Memory and Language, 58, 188-213.

Professional Activities

  • Member, Society for the Neurobiology of Language
  • Member, Cognitive Neuroscience Society
  • Member, Association for Psychological Science
  • Reviewer for:
    • Aphasiology
    • Brain and Language
    • Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
    • Journal of Memory and Language
    • Cognition
    • Developmental Psychology

Classes Taught

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