Laura-Ann Petitto

Laura-Ann Petitto

Dr. Laura-Ann Petitto is a Cognitive Neuroscientist in the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto Scarborough [ (UTSC)] , in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Having arrived in July 2007, via Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H., U.S.A. (2001-2007, Research Professor, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences; Full Professor and Chairman, Department of Education; Endowed Chair, The John Wentworth Endowed Chair in the Social Sciences), and, before that, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada (1983-2001, Assistant, Associate, and Full Professor, Department of Psychology). Dr. Petitto is a Full Professor at UTSC as well as a Full Professor in the School of Graduate Studies at the University of Toronto, St. George campus. She is also the Director and Senior Scientist of the [ The Cognitive Neuroscience fNIRS Brain Imaging & Genes Laboratory for Language, Bilingualism, and Child Development] at the University of Toronto Scarborough.


Dr. Petitto received her undergraduate Bachelor of Science degree, with Highest Honors, in 1975, in Psychology (School of Theoretical and Applied Sciences) from Ramapo College of New Jersey (Mahwah, New Jersey), in conjunction with undergraduate study at Columbia University (New York City, New York; General Studies) while conducting her renowned cross-species language research with a chimpanzee (see “Early Research”). Following her chimpanzee research, Dr. Petitto’s early psycholinguistic research on American Sign Language was conducted in the ground-breaking cognitive neuroscience and psycholinguistics laboratory of [|Dr. Ursula Bellugi] at The Salk Institute for Biological Studies (La Jolla, California), along with the esteemed Linguist, Dr. Edward Klima, of the University of California, San Diego, where Petitto began graduate study in Theoretical Linguistics (1976-1977). At The Salk Institute, Dr. Petitto studied with its many in-resident scientists, including the molecular biologist, Dr. Francis Crick. It was at this time that she began her study and long fascination with human genetics, the neuroanatomy and function of the human brain, and evolution. Dr. Petitto continued her early graduate study at New York University (Masters Degree, Rehabilitative Counseling Psychology, specializing in Deafness/Signed Language, 1977-1978). Following NYU, Dr. Petitto received an award to conduct research on the phonological structure of ASL in the “The Linguistics Research Laboratory” of Dr. William Stokoe at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. (1978-1979). In 1979, Dr. Petitto embarked upon intensive graduate study at Harvard University (Department of Human Development and Psychology), where she received a Masters Degree in 1981 and remained in residence until Fall, 1983 (Doctoral Degree conferred, March 1984). She studied primarily with the leading child and social psychologist, Dr. Roger Brown (primary Graduate Advisor), along with Drs. Courtney Cazden (co-Advisor), Sheldon White, and Jerome Kagan. At Harvard, while working within her psycholinguistics track of study, it was at this time that she began her classes and long association with the renowned Linguist, Dr. Noam Chomsky (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). During her time at Harvard, Dr. Petitto also taught undergraduate Psychology courses as the “Resident Psychology Tutor” (Teaching Fellow) in John Winthrop House. Leaving Harvard in Fall, 1983, to take up her first faculty appointment at McGill University (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), Dr. Petitto also won a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship (to study with Dr. Ursula Bellugi, The Salk Institute for Biological Sciences, La Jolla, California, and Dr. Elizabeth Bates, University of California, San Diego).

Dr. Petitto’s rich education and erudite training has included prestigious awards, including, but not limited to, an invitation to spend one year as a

  • (i) “Visiting Resident Scholar” (1987-1988) in the Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Cambridge, and the Medical Research Council (Speech and Language Group), in Cambridge, England, in conjunction with the Medical Research Council (Cognitive Development Unit), in London, England,
  • (ii) “Fellow” (1991-1992) at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, Stanford, California (1991-1992), and
  • (iii) “Visiting Resident Scholar” (1998-1999) in the Departments of Nuclear Medicine & Cognitive Science, at the Università & Ospedale Istituto San Raffaele, in Milan, Italy.

Overview of Scientific Contributions

Dr. Petitto’s research and discoveries span several scientific disciplines. Her early work with the famous chimpanzee, Nim Chimpsky (see “Early Research”), encompassed Comparative Ethology, Anthropology, Evolutionary Biology, and her later human work, Cognitive Science, Cognitive Neuroscience, Theoretical Linguistics, Philosophy, Psychology, Psycholinguistics, Language Acquisition (and Child Language), Child Development (and Developmental Science), Evolutionary Psychology, Deaf Studies (and Deaf Education), Bilingualism (and Bilingual Education). Her overall discoveries involve

  • (1) cross-species (apes and humans) language and cognitive capacities,
  • (2) the nature of early human language acquisition, structure, and representation in the human brain,
  • (3) the structure, grammar, and representation of natural signed languages of Deaf people, and
  • (4) the nature of bilingual infants, children, and adults’ dual language and reading development, processing, and brain organization.
She has also had a leading international role in the creation of a new scientific discipline that she and her esteemed colleagues have termed “Educational Neuroscience,” [Petitto, L.A., & Dunbar, K.N. (In Press). New findings from educational neuroscience on bilingual brains, scientific brains, and the educated mind. Chapter in K. Fischer & T. Katzir (Eds.), Building Usable Knowledge in Mind, Brain, & Education. Cambridge University Press.] involving the marriage of basic scientific discoveries about the developing brain/child with its principled application to solving core problems in the education of young children. Taken together, the major contribution of her scientific writings has been to offer both testable hypotheses and theory regarding the neural basis for the brain’s specialization for human language, and how it is possible for very young babies to acquire language. [ Petitto, L.A. (2007). Cortical images of early language and phonetic development using Near Infrared Spectroscopy. In K. Fischer & A. Battro (Eds.), The Educated Brain. England: Cambridge University Press, pp. 213-232.] [ Petitto, L.A. (2005). How the brain begets language: On the neural tissue underlying human language acquisition. Chapter in J. McGilvray (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Chomsky. England: Cambridge University Press, pp 84-101.] [ Petitto, L.A. (2000). On the biological foundations of human language. In H. Lane & K. Emmorey (Eds.), The signs of language revisited (pp. 447-471). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.] [ Petitto, L.A. (1999). The acquisition of natural signed languages. In C. Chamberlain, J. Morford, & R. Mayberry (Eds.), Language acquisition by eye (pp. 41-50). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.] [ Petitto, L.A. (1998). On the biological, environmental and neurogenetic factors determining early language acquisition: Evidence from signed and spoken languages. ACFOS Neurosciences et Surdité du premier age. Bulletin D’Audiophonologie, XIV(1), 337-348 (France).] [Petitto, L.A. (1997). The existence of natural signed languages: Lessons in the nature of human language and its biological foundations. (Esistono linguaggi naturali dei segni?) KOS Rivista di medicina, cultura e scienze umane (similar to Scientific American), 146, 22-29.] [Petitto, L.A. (1997). In the beginning: On the genetic and environmental factors that make early language acquisition possible. In M. Gopnik (Ed.), The inheritance and innateness of grammars (pp. 45-69). England: Oxford University Press.] [Petitto, L.A. (1994). On the equipotentiality of signed and spoken language in early language ontogeny. In B. Snider (Ed.), Post-Milan ASL and English Literacy: Issues, Trends, & Research (pp. 195-223). Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet University Press.] [Petitto, L.A. (1993). On the ontogenetic requirements for early language acquisition. In B. de Boysson-Bardies, S. de Schonen, P. Jusczyk, P. MacNeilage, & J. Morton (Eds.), Developmental neurocognition: Speech and face processing in the first year of life (pp. 365-383). Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kuwer.] [Petitto, L.A. (1989). Knowledge of language in signed and spoken language acquisition. In B. Woll and J. Kyle (Eds.), Language development and sign language. England: University of Bristol.] [Petitto, L.A. (1985). Language structure and language organization in the brain: Evidence from the study of human sign languages, Recherches Sémiotiques/Semiotic Inquiry, 5, 393-40l.]

Early Research

Dr. Petitto is known for her discoveries involving the biological bases of language, especially early language acquisition. Her studies of this topic span 35 years, beginning in 1973 with her seminal research at Columbia University (Department of Psychology with Professor Herbert Terrace) in which she attempted to teach sign language to a baby chimpanzee ("Project Nim Chimpsky," named after Noam Chomsky). Dr. Petitto had a leading role on Project Nim Chimpsky as the “Primary Sign Language Teacher,” “Project Coordinator” and as a “Surrogate Mother.” Despite the dangers of living with a chimpanzee, Dr. Petitto lived with and cared for Nim as a child in an attempt to create a natural language, cognitive, and highly caring and rich social environment, mirroring that of a human child. The lion’s share of the chimp’s scientific training and accomplishments were achieved during her 4 year tenure on the Project as Nim’s pioneering teacher and caretaker. She and her colleagues have authored several of the world’s seminal scientific papers on the question of language in chimpanzees, including now classic articles on the similarities and differences between the ape and human mind. [ Petitto, L.A. (2005). How the brain begets language: On the neural tissue underlying human language acquisition. Chapter in J. McGilvray (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Chomsky. England: Cambridge University Press, pp 84-101.] [ Seidenberg, M. S., & Petitto, L. A. (1987). Communication, symbolic communication, and language in child and chimpanzee: Comment on Savage-Rumbaugh, McDonald, Sevcik, Hopkins, and Rupert (1986). Journal of Experimental Psychology, General, 116(3), 279-287.] [Seidenberg, M.S., & Petitto, L.A. (1981). Ape signing: Problems of method and interpretations. Annals of the New York Academy of Science, 364, 115-130.] [Terrace, H.S., Petitto, L.A., Sanders, R. J., & Bever, T. G. (1980). On the grammatical capacity of apes. In K. Nelson (Ed.), Children’s Language Volume 2 (pp. 371-495). New York: Gardner Press.] [ Terrace, H.S., Petitto, L.A., Sanders, R.J., & Bever, T.G. (1979). Can an ape create a sentence? Science, 206, 891-902.] [Petitto, L.A., & Seidenberg, M.S. (1979). On the evidence for linguistic abilities in signing apes. Brain and Language, 8, 72-88.] [Seidenberg, M.S., & Petitto, L.A. (1979). Signing behavior in apes: A critical review. Cognition, 7, 177-215.] [Marmor, G.S., & Petitto, L.A. (1979). Simultaneous communication in the classroom: How well is English grammar represented? Sign Language Studies, 3, 99-136.] [Seidenberg, M.S., & Petitto, L.A. (1978). What do signing chimpanzees have to say to linguists? In D. Farkas, W. Jacobsen, & K. Todrys (Eds.), Papers from the 14th Regional Meeting, Chicago Linguistic Society.]

After her undergraduate work with Nim Chimpsky, Dr. Petitto went on to make discoveries about the elegant linguistic structure, acquisition, and representation in the brain of the world’s natural signed languages, especially American Sign Language (ASL). Using signed languages as a new “microscope” to discover the central/universal properties of human language in the brain (those that are distinct from the modality of language transmission and reception), Dr. Petitto advanced 4 branches of research, each characterized by significant discoveries. These include discovery of

  • (1) Universal Linguistic Structures (cross-linguistic studies of signed and spoken languages [ Petitto, L.A., & Bellugi, U. (1988). Spatial cognition and brain organization: Clues from the acquisition of a language in space. In J. Stiles-Davies, U. Bellugi, & M. Kritchevsky (Eds.), Spatial cognition: Brain bases and development (pp. 299-341). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.] [ Willbur, R.B., & Petitto, L.A. (1983). Discourse structure in American Sign Language conversations. Discourse Processes, 6(3), 225-241.] [ Wilbur, R.B., & Petitto, L.A. (1981). How to know a conversation when you see one. Journal of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association, 9, 66-81.] , and cross-linguistic studies of different signed languages, especially ASL and Langue des Signes Québécoise, LSQ) [ Charron, F., & Petitto, L.A. (1991). Les premiers signes acquis par des enfants sourds en langue des signes québécoise (LSQ): Comparaison avec les premiers mots. Revue Québécoise de Linguistique Théorique et Appliquée, 10(1), 71-122.] ,
  • (2) Linguistic Timing Milestones in Development (the highly similar language milestones across young children acquiring spoken and signed languages),
  • (3) Universal Linguistic Structures in Development (the acquisition of Pronouns, Pronominal Reference, Pronoun-Reversals [ Petitto, L.A. (1989). The transition from gesture to symbol in language acquisition. In V. Volterra & C. Erting (Eds.), From gesture to language in hearing and deaf children (pp. 153-161). Heidelberg, Germany: Springer-Verlag.] [ Petitto, L.A. (1987). On the autonomy of language and gesture: Evidence from the acquisition of personal pronouns in American Sign Language. Cognition, 27(1), 1-52.] [Petitto, L.A. (1985). Pronoun acquisition in another mode. In V. Volterra & W. Stokoe (Eds.), Proceedings of the III International Symposium on Sign Language Research (pp. 55-63). Silver Spring, MD: Linstock Press.] [Petitto, L.A. (1983). From gesture to symbol: The relationship between form and meaning in the acquisition of personal pronouns in American Sign Language. Papers and Reports on Child Development, 22, 100-107.] ; the discovery of manual Babbling, identical to vocal Babbling, in deaf and hearing babies acquiring signed languages) [ Petitto, L.A., Holowka, S., Sergio, L., Levy, B., & Ostry, D. (2004). Baby hands that move to the rhythm of language: Hearing babies acquiring sign languages babble silently on the hands. Cognition, 9, 43-73.] [Holowka, S., & Petitto, L.A. (2002). Left hemisphere cerebral specialization for babies while babbling. Science, 297(5586), 1515.] [Petitto, L.A., Holowka, S., Sergio, L., & Ostry, D. (2001). Language rhythms in babies’ hand movements. Nature, 413, 35-36.] [Petitto, L.A., & Marentette, P. (1991). Babbling in the manual mode: Evidence for the ontogeny of language. Science, 251, 1483-1496. NOTE: This work was also translated into German by Von Adelheid Stahnke and published in the German Scientific American, July 1991, 19-20 (“Komplexe fruhe sprachentwicklung bei gehorlosen kindern”), and has been reprinted in many child development and language acquisition books.] ,
  • (4) Distinct Knowledge Representation in Development (domain-specific versus domain-general knowledge in child development: the difference between language versus communicative gesture in all children’s development) [Petitto, L.A. (1994). Modularity and Constraints in Early Lexical Acquistion: Evidence from children’s early language and gesture. In P. Bloom (Ed.), Language acquisition: Core readings. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.] [Petitto, L.A. (1992). Modularity and constraints in early lexical acquisition: Evidence from children’s first words/signs and gestures. In M.R. Gunnar & M. Maratsos (Eds.), Modularity and constraints in language and cognition: The Minnesota symposia on child psychology, Vol. 25. (pp. 25-58). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.] [ Petitto, L.A. (1988). “Language” in the pre-linguistic child. In F. Kessel (Ed.), Development of language and language researchers: Essays in honor of Roger Brown (pp. 187-221). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.] , and

    (5) Brain Tissue Dedication for Aspects of Human Language Structure (surprising convergences of specific linguistic functions on specific brain tissue across signed and spoken languages. For example, phonological processing in the left hemisphere Superior Temporal Gyrus was traditionally regarded as unimodal sound processing tissue, and the Left Inferior Frontal Cortex was regarded as the site for the search and retrieval of information about word meanings in spoken language. However, Dr. Petitto found that the same brain tissue recruitment is used regardless of whether the language was on the hands in sign or the tongue in speech, suggesting that the tissue is not set to sound but specific underlying patterns universal to natural language structure) [ Newman-Norlund, R.D., Frey, S.H., Petitto, L.A., Grafton, S.T. (2006). Anatomical substrates of visual and auditory miniature second language learning using fMRI. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 18(12), 1984-1997.] [ Penhune, V., Cismaru, R., Dorsaint-Pierre, R., Petitto, L.A., & Zatorre, R. (2003). The morphometry of auditory cortex in the congenitally deaf measured using MRI. NeuroImage, 20, 1215-1225.] [ Petitto, L.A., Zatorre, R., Gauna, K., Nikelski, E.J., Dostie, D., & Evans, A. (2000). Speech-like cerebral activity in profoundly deaf people while processing signed languages: Implications for the neural basis of human language. (PET brain imaging study.) Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 97(25), 13961-13966.] .

In addition to its scientific importance, Dr. Petitto’s research has contributed to the body of knowledge establishing that the signed languages of Deaf people around the world are real languages with the full expressive capacity as spoken languages [Petitto, L.A. (1994). Are signed languages “real” languages? Evidence from American Sign Language and Langue des Signes Québecoise. Signpost (International Quarterly of the Sign Linguistics Association), 7(3), 1-10. NOTE: This article has had an important impact. After appearing in the above, it was translated into French & Spanish by the “World Federation of the Deaf (WFD)”- an international organization in official liaison with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, UNESCO, ILO and WHO. The translations were published in 1996 by the WFD and distributed as a monograph to heads of state and government officials throughout the world. French Monograph, (1996). “Les langues des signes sont-elles de “vraies” langues? Une réponse probante issue de l’étude de l’American Sign Language et de la Langue des Signes Québécoise.” Spanish Monograph, (1996). “Son Las Lenguas De Senas Lenguas “Verdaderas”? Testimonios de la Lengua des Senas Americanas Y de la Lengua de Senas de Quebec.” In addition, this work has been translated into Japanese by Mr. Soya Mori and edited by Dr. Eiichi Takada and published in the leading Japanese sign language journal. Japanese Journal, (1996). Sign Language Communication Studies, Vol. 21. This work has also been published in India. Indian book chapter, (1996). In D. Deshmukh (Ed.), Sign language and bilingualism in deaf education (pp. 131-146). Maharashtra, India.] .

Current Research

Dr. Petitto’s current studies involve the use of a revolutionary combination of three disciplines:

  • (i) Genetic analyses (polymorphisms in candidate genes as well as microchip array analyses),
  • (ii) Behavioral measures of higher cognitive processes from Psycholinguistics and Developmental Science, and
  • (iii) Neuroimaging from Cognitive Neuroscience. Dr. Petitto and her team use a powerful new brain imaging technology, called functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS), a technology that she and her team have helped to pioneer.
Indeed, Petitto’s Laboratory is among only a handful in the world that is pioneering the use of these three disciplines under one roof for the study of early brain development, as well as for the very early detection of brain and language disorders.

Since 2000, Dr. Petitto and her laboratory team are known for discovering that young bilingual children are not harmed, delayed, or confused by early dual language exposure. These children, not only achieve their language milestones (in each language) on the same timetable as monolinguals [ Petitto, L.A., & Kovelman, I. (2003). The Bilingual Paradox: How signing-speaking bilingual children help us to resolve bilingual issues and teach us about the brain’s mechanisms underlying all language acquisition. Learning Languages, 8(3), 5-18. Translation into French (2004). Le paradoxe du bilinguisme, Double langue maternelle. In Revue Imaginaire et Inconscient, 14.] [Petitto, L.A., & Holowka, S. (2002). Evaluating attributions of delay and confusion in young bilinguals: Special insights from infants acquiring a signed and a spoken language. Sign Language Studies, 3(1), 4-33.] [ Petitto, L.A., Katerelos, M., Levy, B., Gauna, K., Tétrault, K., & Ferraro, V. (2001). Bilingual signed and spoken language acquisition from birth: Implications for mechanisms underlying early bilingual language acquisition. Journal of Child Language, 28(2), 453-496.] , they demonstrate the same semantic and conceptual development as monolinguals [ Holowka, S., Brosseau-Lapré, F., & Petitto, L.A. (2002). Semantic and conceptual knowledge underlying bilingual babies’ first signs and words. Language Learning, 52(2), 205-262.] [Charron, F., & Petitto, L.A. (1991). Les premiers signes acquis par des enfants sourds en langue des signes québécoise (LSQ): Comparaison avec les premiers mots. Revue Québécoise de Linguistique Théorique et Appliquée, 10(1), 71-122.] . Dr. Petitto and her team have also identified the mechanisms that make possible the human infant’s early capacity to phonetically discriminate (segment and categorize) the constantly varying linguistic stream around them [Baker, S.A., Michnick-Golinkoff, R., & Petitto, L.A. (2006). New insights into old puzzles from infants’ categorical discrimination of soundless phonetic units. Language Learning and Development, 2(3), 147-162.] [Baker, S.A., Idsardi, W.J., Golinkoff, R., & Petitto, L.A. (2005). The perception of [phonetic] handshapes in American Sign Language. Memory & Cognition, 33(5), 887-904(18).] . Dr. Petitto has identified fundamental processes that underlie human reading and spelling in all language users [ Norton, E.S., Kovelman, I., & Petitto, L. A. (2007). Are there separate neural systems for spelling? New insights into the role of rules and memory in spelling from fMRI. International Journals of Mind, Brain and Education, 1(1), 1-12.] and found evidence for select reading advantages in young bilingual children as compared to matched monolingual peers, termed the “bilingual reading advantage.” [ Kovelman, I., Baker, S.A., & Petitto, L.A. (2008). Age of first bilingual language exposure as a new window into bilingual reading development. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 11(2), 203-223. ] They have further discovered surprising ways in which bilingual schooling can ameliorate the deleterious effects of low SES [ Kovelman, I., Baker, S.A., & Petitto, L.A. (2008). Age of first bilingual language exposure as a new window into bilingual reading development. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 11(2), 203-223. ] They are also among the first group of researchers to compare directly adult bilingual and monolingual brains [ Kovelman, I., Shalinsky, M.H., White, K., Schmitt, S.N., Berens, M.S., Paymer, N., & Petitto, L.A. (In Press). New light on language switching form sign-speech bimodal bilinguals using fNIRS brain-imaging. Brain & Language.] [Kovelman, I., Baker, S.A., & Petitto, L.A. (2008). Bilingual and Monolingual brains compared: An fMRI investigation of syntactic processing and a possible “neural signature” of bilingualism. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 20(1), 153-169.] [Kovelman, I., Shalinsky, M.H., Berens, M.S., & Petitto, L.A. (2008). Shining light on the brain’s “Bilingual Signature :” a functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy investigation of semantic processing. NeuroImage, 39(1), 1457-1471.] and what happens when the adult brain learns two artificial languages as a second language [Newman-Norlund, R.D., Frey, S.H., Petitto, L.A., Grafton, S.T. (2006). Anatomical substrates of visual and auditory miniature second language learning using fMRI. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 18(12), 1984-1997.] . These new studies of bilinguals are advancing our understanding of the biological foundations of bilingualism, when best to expose young bilinguals to their dual languages, how optimal bilingual language acquisition develops, and, crucially, how and when best to teach young bilinguals to read in each of their two languages. Further, these studies have allowed her to explore different reading and teaching techniques with young bilinguals across different types of reading programs (e.g., phonics versus whole word).

Dr. Petitto and her team also conduct Genes, Behavior, and Brain studies of how extensive training (expertise) in one domain of knowledge impacts or “transfers” to other domains of knowledge (and the extent of this transfer). For example, she is interested in how extensive training in the Arts impacts a young child’s acquisition of other knowledge, a question vital to Educational policy-makers with limited budgets. She and her team are studying expert Performing Artists (e.g., Dancers) and the extent to which “expertise” of this type may transfer to “near” and “far” domains of knowledge.


Dr. Petitto has won continuous (non-interrupted) Federal (both the USA and Canada) and/or Foundation funding for her scientific research for the past 25 years. Recently, she is the recipient of significant Federal grants from the National Institutes of Health (USA), including both a 5-year research operating grant (R01) and significant funding for her “innovations to science and technology” (R21) to support her pioneering research using fNIRS brain imaging. She also recently won a highly esteemed award from the “Canadian Foundation for Innovation,” involving significant funding to establish her “Genes, Mind, and Brain” research laboratory, the first of its kind under one roof in the country of Canada. Other recent significant Foundation funding includes grants from The Dana Foundation for the Arts (2004-2007) and The Spencer Foundation (Major Research Grant, 2000-2003).


Dr. Petitto is the recipient of many awards for her outstanding teaching of students including, for example, the

  • (i) Phi Beta Kapa Society (inducted as an Honorary Member for outstanding teaching and scholarship), Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H., conferred June, 2005;
  • (ii) Golden Key International Honour Society (inducted as Honorary Member for outstanding teaching and scientific achievements), McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, conferred June, 1997;
  • (iii) Harvard University Innovative Teaching Award and Norman Fund Award (for “excellence in teaching and the creative improvement of undergraduate education”), conferred 1982.

Dr. Petitto is also the recipient of over twenty international prizes and awards for her distinguished scientific achievements, including, for example,

  • (i) The Justine and Yves Sergent International Prize in Cognitive Neuroscience, Université de Montréal Honorary Diploma, Faculty of Medicine, Quebec, Canada, conferred on June, 2004;
  • (ii) Guggenheim Award (for her “unusually distinguished achievements in the past and exceptional promise for future accomplishment” in the discipline of Neuroscience), conferred in Spring, 1998;
  • (iii) American Psychological Association Boyd R. McCandless “Young Scientist Award” (for “outstanding early career contributions to, and achievements in Developmental Psychology”), conferred at the APA Convention, Atlanta, GA., 1988; and
  • (iv) American Psychological Association “Young Psychologist Award,” conferred at the 24th International Congress of Psychology, Sydney, Australia, 1988.


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  • Nim Chimpsky — (November 19, 1973 – March 10, 2000) was a chimpanzee who was the subject of an extended study of animal language acquisition (codenamed 6.001) at Columbia University, led by Herbert S. Terrace. The validity of the study is disputed, as Terrace… …   Wikipedia

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