Carnegie Mellon University

Leah Ettensohn

Adviser: Marlene Behrmann
Major: Psychology
Minor: Cognitive Neuroscience

An Investigation of the Neural Mechanism for Reading: The Visual Word Form Area

Visual cues are an important means by which humans interact with their environment.  Although much has been learned about how the brain interprets visual information, many important questions remain unanswered. In particular, there is an incomplete understanding of how written word stimuli are processed in the visual system. Leah Ettensohn’s project addresses a current lack of understanding of how the location of visual word areas influence visual processing. She will be studying native Chinese speakers to investigate the relationship between the lateralization of visual word form areas and spatial frequency sensitivity in the brain. Ettensohn’s findings will shed light on the nature of the visual system and how written words are processed in the brain. In addition, because the impairment of visual word processing underlies medical conditions such as alexia, her research may help us better understand these conditions.


Ettensohn is interested in understanding the development of the visual system and the neural mechanisms responsible for visual cognition. In her free time, Ettensohn enjoys being active and doing yoga. She also likes to spend time with her family and is thankful for her father who has always encouraged her to be curious and pursue involvement in scientific research.