Janet F. Werker

Wall Associate


UBC Killam Professor and Canada Research Chair






University of British Columbia
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Dr. Janet F. Werker is the founder and a member of the Early Development Research Group, a consortium of six research centers interested in the development of language, learning, and social understanding in infants and children. She co-founded the UBC Language Sciences Initiative in 2015, an interdisciplinary research and teaching initiative https://languagesciences.ubc.ca. In 2021, Language Sciences was established as a Global Research Excellence Institute. It fosters innovation, collaboration and connections between researchers working in all areas of the language sciences, and serves to communicate this knowledge to many audiences, including researchers, students, institutions, communities and the general public.

Her research focuses on understanding the roots of language acquisition, by studying speech perception in infancy, the mechanisms by which native speech sound categories are acquired, and how speech perception supports early word learning.

Co-Principal Investigator Awards

Nancy Hermiston – Arts-Based Initiatives – 2019

This project was supported as a Peter Wall Institute Trustees Initiative for two years.
Learning how to perform opera is both cognitively and physically demanding, yet some of the students who have been most successful in UBC’s Opera Program have had learning disabilities, and appear to have overcome their difficulties, or to have learned compensatory skills that help them not just in opera performance but beyond. The goal of the proposed research is to systematically evaluate and better explain the neural foundations of that observation. In this endeavor, a study is proposed to measure executive function and other learning capabilities before and after opera training, and to determine – through MRI measurement of anatomical changes in fiber tracts in the brain and through EEG measures of circuit function– the neural bases of the behavioral improvements. Necessary control conditions are included to specify just what it is about opera training that leads to success.