Juan Manuel Toro

Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Social & Behavioural Sciences

I was born in Bogotá (Colombia) in 1976. I studied Psychology at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. In 2005, I got a PhD from the Universitat de Barcelona, and moved to work as a postdoc with Jacques Mehler at the Language and Cognitive Development lab at SISSA (Trieste, Italy). Later I was a research fellow under the Ramón y Cajal program. My studies are mainly funded through a grant awarded by the European Research Council (ERC Starting Grant). Currently I am an ICREA Research Professor at the Center for Brain and Cognition of the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, where I coordinate the Language and Comparative Cognition Group.

Research interests

I am interested in studying why the ability of language has only emerged in humans and not in other animals. I tackle this issue using a combination of experimental techniques and populations that include human adults and infants, and non-human animals. Our studies have demonstrated that some of the building blocks of language learning are found in other animals, including the abilitiy to extract information from speech using prosodic and statistical regularities. We have also showed how phonological representations guide general learning  mechanisms. Recently, we are also exploring music cognition, including consonance processing, brain entraintment to metrical structures and harmonic predictions. Through this work, I have tried to unveil what is uniquely human and what is shared with other animals in the field of language processing.

Selected publications

- Crespo-Bojorque P, Monte-Ordoño J & Toro JM 2018, 'Early neural responses underlie advantages for consonance over dissonance', Neuropsychologia, 117, 188-198.

Selected research activities

- Exploring what we share, and what we don't, with other species on language processing. University of Osnabruck (Germany).

- Coordinator, Master in Brain and Cognition, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.

- Associate Editor, Journal of Language Evolution.

- Interviews and media coverage: EURAXESS, CORDIS, UPF press, El Tiempo