Tamara Swaab

Tamara Swaab Portrait

Position Title

Young Hall Room 174G
1 Shields Avenue, Davis CA 95616


  • Ph.D., Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Nijmegen and Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, The Netherlands, 1996
  • B.S., Neuropsychology, University of Nijmegen, 1988


In addition to her academic appointment in the Department of Psychology, Tamara Swaab is a core faculty member in the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain. She is also director of the Cognitive Neuroscience of Language Lab. In 2007 and 2016 she was elected a fellow of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, both in the Netherlands. She currently serves as Editor-in-Chief for Cognition (https://www.journals.elsevier.com/cognition).

Research Focus

Language is a central part of our everyday life. Yet comprehending spoken and written language is extremely complex, being subserved by complex mental processes and supported by myriad areas in the brain. The main goal of Professor Swaab's research program is to study the cognitive and neural architectures of normal language comprehension. In this context, she has focused her research on a number of topics, including: 1) the processing of sentences and discourse, and 2) the representation of words and their meaning. In order to investigate these topics she has made use of behavioral methods, Event-Related Potentials (ERPs), and functional neuroimaging (fMRI). She has tested neurologically normal adults, neurological patients with brain damage who are impaired in normal language comprehension (aphasic patients), and patients with schizophrenia. The combination of these approaches can provide information on language comprehension processes as they unfold in real time, but also hold the obvious possibility of identifying areas in the brain that are crucial to normal language understanding.


Cognitive Neuroscience of Language Lab


  • Swaab, T.Y., Ledoux, K., Camblin, C.C., & Boudewyn, M.A. (2012) Language related ERP components. (Book Chapter). In: Luck, S. J. & Kappenman, E.S. (Eds.), pp 397-440. Oxford Handbook of Event-Related Potential Components. New York: Oxford University Press
  • Swaab, T.Y., Boudewyn, M.A., Long, D.L., Luck, S.L., Kring, A., Ragland, D., Ranganath, C., Lesh, T., Niendam, T.A., Solomon, M. Mangun, G.R. & Carter, C. (2013). Spared and Impaired Spoken Discourse Processing in Schizophrenia: Effects of Local and Global Language Context. Journal of Neuroscience, 33(39), 15578-87
  • Brothers, T., Swaab, T.Y., and Traxler, M.J. (2015). Effect of prediction and contextual support on lexical processing: Prediction takes precedence. Cognition, 136, 135–149
  • Hoversten, L, Brothers, T., Swaab, T.Y., and Traxler, M.J. (2015). Language membership identification precedes semantic access: Suppression during bilingual word recognition. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 27(11), 2108-16.
  • Dave, S., Brothers, T., & Swaab, T.Y. (2018). 1/f Neural Noise and Electrophysiological Indices of Contextual Prediction in Normative Aging. Brain Research. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2018.04.007.
  • Boudewyn, M.A., Blalock, A. Long, D.L. & Swaab, T.Y. (in press) Adaptation to animacy violations during listening comprehension. Cognitive Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience


Professor Swaab teaches in the areas of Perception, Cognition, and Cognitive Neuroscience. She has taught classes in Language & Cognition, Fundamentals of Human Electrophysiology and Cognitive Neuroscience.


Professor Swaab has won numerous awards throughout her career. She was a visiting fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, and she received a career development award from the National Science Foundation (POWRE) and a Mc-Donnell-Pew Individual Investigator award.