Jonathan R. Brennan

Associate Professor of Linguistics & Psychology

University of Michigan

I study the mental structures and computations used to understand words and sentences, with a focus on how these processes are implemented in the brain. My research uses formal, computationally grounded models of language comprehension to probe neural signals collected with electroencephalography (EEG), magnetoencephalography (MEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Order Language and the brain: A slim guide to neurolinguistics
from your local bookstore

I have a particular interest in experimental methods that are as natural as possible, such as having participants read or listen to a story. Naturalistic techniques are especially suitable with populations for which standard experimental tasks may be inappropriate, such as with children with developmental disorders.

I am the director of the Computational Neurolinguistics Lab in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Michigan.


  • Cognitive neuroscience of language
  • Syntax and semantics
  • Naturalistic experimental methods


  • PhD in Linguistics, 2010

    New York University

  • BA in Cognitive Science & Classics, 2003

    Vassar College


Language and the brain: A slim guide to neurolinguistics

This breezy guide introduces readers to the state-of-the-art neuroscientific research that is revolutionizing our understanding of language.

Meaning in a Social World

We investigate how the brain supports building meaning that combines what people say with who is saying it, guided by the understanding that stereotypes and biases can shape (and misshape) comprehension.

Accessing Words Within and Across Languages

We model and test the neural mechanisms that allow us to recognize the meanings of spoken and written words rapidly and efficiently.

Neuro-Computational Models of Natural Language

We build computational models of sentence understanding and evaluate their fit against neural signals collected from people performing a relatively natural task, like listening to a story. (NSF #1607251, 2017-2019)

Neural Coherence at Rest and During Language Processing in Autism Spectrum Disorder

We use magnetoencephalography to probe processing of sounds, words, and sentences in school-aged children with high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder. (U-M M-Cubed Initative, 2013-2015)

Where’s Jon?

The lab website lists all presentations and posters since 2013. For older presentations, click here

Conference on Human Sentence Processing

We’re hosting! Special session on Socially Situated Language Processing

Colloquium: McMaster University Linguistics

Grammatical dynamics and neural decoding with EEG

Colloquium: Northwestern University Linguistics

Grammatical dynamics and neural decoding with EEG

Society for the Neurobiology of Language

Lab members presenting work on decoding verb phrases, retrieval during naturalistic composition, and morphological decomposition.

Colloquium: UC Irvine Language Science

Linking neural systems to syntax using parsing models