Joe Toscano

Assistant Professor
Dept. of Psychological & Brain Sciences
Villanova University
Phone: 610-519-4755
Office: 344 Tolentine Hall
Lab: 231 Tolentine Hall


Hi there. I'm an Assistant Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Villanova University, where I direct the Word Recognition and Auditory Perception (WRAP) Lab. Our group studies speech perception, hearing, and language processing, using a combination of computational, cognitive neuroscience, and behavioral techniques. I teach graduate and undergraduate courses in psychology, neuroscience, and cognitive science, including a laboratory course on speech perception for non-science majors.

Education and Academic Positions



My research focuses on questions about speech and language processing:

To answer these questions, we use techniques that allow us to study spoken word recognition as it happens. These include cognitive neuroscience methods (ERP and optical neuroimaging techniques) that capture early perceptual processes and eye-tracking approaches that measure lexical activation as the speech signal unfolds. We use these data to inform computational models of speech perception that address questions about unsupervised statistical learning and speech development.

For more information, check out our lab website.

Selected Publications

Full list on lab website and Google Scholar profile. Talks/presentations on lab website.

  1. Getz LM, Toscano JC (in press). Electrophysiological evidence for top-down lexical influences on early speech perception. To appear in Psychological Science.
  2. Toscano JC, Lansing C (2019). Age-Related changes in temporal and spectral cue weights in speech. Language and Speech, 62, 61-79. [pdf]
  3. Gao YA, Toscano JC, Shih C, Tanner D (2019). Reassessing the electrophysiological evidence for categorical perception of Mandarin lexical tone: ERP evidence from native and naïve non-native Mandarin listeners. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 81, 543-557. [pdf]
  4. Pereira O, Gao YA, Toscano JC (2018). Perceptual encoding of natural speech sounds revealed by the N1 event-related potential response. Auditory Perception & Cognition, 1, 112-130. [pdf]
  5. Tabachnick AR, Toscano JC (2018). Perceptual encoding in auditory brainstem responses: Effects of stimulus frequency. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 61, 2364-2375. [pdf]
  6. Toscano JC, Anderson ND, Fabiani M, Gratton G, Garnsey SM (2018). The time-course of cortical responses to speech revealed by fast optical imaging. Brain and Language, 184, 32-42. [pdf]
  7. Buxó-Lugo A, Toscano JC, Watson DG (2018). Effects of participant engagement on prosodic prominence. Discourse Processes, 55, 305-323. [pdf]
  8. Brown-Schmidt S, Toscano JC (2017). Gradient acoustic information induces long-lasting referential uncertainty in short discourses. Language, Cognition, & Neuroscience, 32, 1211-1228 [pdf]
  9. Getz LM, Nordeen ER, Vrabic SC, Toscano JC (2017). Modeling the development of audiovisual cue integration in speech perception. Brain Sciences, 7, 32. [pdf]
  10. Toscano JC, McMurray B (2015). The time-course of speaking rate compensation: Effects of sentential rate and vowel length on voicing judgments. Language, Cognition, and Neuroscience, 30, 529-543. [pdf] [PubMed]
  11. Toscano JC, Buxó-Lugo A, Watson DG (2015). Using game-based approaches to increase level of engagement in research and education. In S. Dikkers (Ed.), TeacherCraft: How Teachers Learn to Use Minecraft in Their Classrooms. Pittsburgh: ETC Press. [pdf]
  12. Toscano JC, Allen JB (2014). Across and within consonant errors for isolated syllables in noise. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 57, 2293-2307. [pdf] [PubMed]
  13. Toscano JC, Anderson ND, McMurray B (2013). Reconsidering the role of temporal order in spoken word recognition. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 20. 981-987. [pdf] [Supplementary Material] [PubMed]
  14. Toscano JC, McMurray B (2012). Cue-integration and context effects in speech: Evidence against speaking-rate normalization. Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics, 74, 1284-1301. [pdf] [PubMed]
  15. Toscano JC (2011). Perceiving speech in context: Compensation for contextual variability at the level of acoustic cue encoding and categorization. Doctoral dissertation, University of Iowa. [pdf]
  16. Toscano, JC, McMurray B, Dennhardt J, Luck SJ (2010). Continuous perception and graded categorization: Electrophysiological evidence for a linear relationship between the acoustic signal and perceptual encoding of speech. Psychological Science, 21, 1532-1540. [pdf] [PubMed]
  17. Toscano JC, McMurray B (2010). Cue integration with categories: Weighting acoustic cues in speech using unsupervised learning and distributional statistics. Cognitive Science, 34, 434-464. MATLAB code available via email. [pdf] [PubMed]
  18. Toscano JC, Mueller KL, McMurray B, Tomblin JB (2010). Simulating individual differences in language ability and genetic differences in FOXP2 using a neural network model of the SRT task. In S. Ohlsson & R. Catrambone, Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 2230-2235). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. [pdf]
  19. McMurray B, Aslin RN, Toscano JC (2009). Statistical learning of phonetic categories: Insights from a computational approach. Developmental Science, 12, 369-378. [pdf] [PubMed]
  20. McMurray B, Horst J, Toscano JC, Samuelson LK (2009). Towards an integration of connectionist learning and dynamical systems processing: Case studies in speech and lexical development. In J.P. Spencer, M. Thomas, & J. McClelland (Eds.), Toward a Unified Theory of Development: Connectionism and Dynamic Systems Theory Re-Considered. New York: Oxford University Press. [pdf]
  21. Toscano JC, McMurray B (2008). Using the distributional statistics of speech sounds for weighting and integrating acoustic cues. In B.C. Love, K. McRae, & V.M. Sloutsky (Eds.), Proceedings of the 30th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 433-438). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. Winner of the Computational Modeling Prize in Perception and Action. [pdf]
  22. Toscano JC, Perry LK, Mueller KL, Bean AF, Galle ME, Samuelson LK (2008). Language as shaped by the brain; the brain as shaped by development. Commentary on Christiansen & Chater, "Language as shaped by the brain", Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 31, 535-536. [pdf]


Teaching and Student Training

Former Graduate Students

I've had the privilege of working with a number of outstanding graduate students in my lab at Villanova. Check out the complete list of our lab alumni here. The following students completed their M.S. theses in my lab:

  1. Daniel Cordero (M.S., 2018, Software Engineering), "Applying neural nets to EEG data for hearing loss detection" (co-supervised with Dr. Edward Kim)
  2. Emma Folk (M.S., 2017), "Parallel vs. serial processing in language comprehension"
  3. Benjamin Falandays (M.S., 2017), "How long can listeners maintain gradient acoustic information?"
  4. David Saltzman (M.S., 2016), "The role of the speech envelope in speaking rate compensation"
  5. Tifani Biro (M.S., 2016), "Enhancing tools for measuring phonetic convergence"

Master's students who completed substantial research projects in my lab other than their thesis:

  1. Alexandra Tabachnick (M.S., 2016), "Frequency sensitivity of auditory brainstem responses"
  2. Olivia Pereira (M.S., 2016), "The N1 event-related potential component as an index of speech sound encoding for multiple phonetic contrasts"
  3. Taylor Curley (M.S., 2015), "Statistical learning of English vowel categories"

Prospective Students

Interested in doing postdoctoral work in the lab or applying to our department's M.S. program? Send me an email to find out more!

Current Villanova undergraduate? Our lab is always looking for good Psychology and Cognitive & Behavioral Neuroscience majors (and other majors!) who want to learn more about perception and language. Click here to find out more about undergraduate research positions in the lab.


I teach courses in the Psychology, CBN, and Cognitive Science programs at Villanova. I also teach a Mendel Science Experience (MSE) course in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences called Sounds of Human Language. The course provides non-science majors with a background in the techniques and approaches used in the natural sciences. We study this through the lens of spoken language, exploring the acoustic properties of speech sounds and the mechanisms underlying speech perception. The course is well-suited to students who are interested in language and speech communication.

Some of the courses I teach: