Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

43 Vassar St., Room 46-3037c, Cambridge, MA, 02139

© 2017 by Idan A. Blank

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I study how we process language. I am interested in how different components of the mind work together such that language "means something", and in the mental structures that constitute these meanings (like our "mental dictionary"). To learn how language "happens" in the mind, I examine its implementation in the brain: I use neuroimaging to establish what different brain networks do when we think about words, read sentences, or listen to stories. I also use computational methods to test what kinds of knowledge, about both language and the world, can be learned from the statistical properties of texts by computer algorithms.

I lead the BlankLangLab in the Psychology Department at UCLA. Previously, I was a post-doctoral associate at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, where I worked with Ev Fedorenko (building on my PhD work with her and Nancy Kanwisher). Prior to MIT, I studied Math, Psychology, and Theatre Arts in the Adi Lautman Interdisciplinary Program at Tel-Aviv University. There, I received my MA working with Galit Yovel on visual face recognition. I also nearly completed a MFA in Directing (my other way of exploring how we do things with words), but science got in the way.


My passions for theatre (telling stories, designing experiences) and the scientific study of the mind come together in my third passion: teaching. Therefore, to learn about my interests across cognitive science and systems neuroscience, I invite you to look through my slides for Introduction to Psychological ScienceTopics of interest that I pursue most actively include:

  • Working memory and the mechanisms that control goal-directed behavior (executive functions)

  • Statistics and research methods in psychology

  • High-level visual processing

  • Psycholinguistics

  • Bayesian inference and bounded rationality in cognition

If you are an undergraduate at UCLA, you can get credit or money to help science—and we'll also give you a picture of your brain!

My colleagues and I are always running experiments and looking for participants. To receive emails about upcoming opportunities, click here

I am hiring a lab manager to start in fall 2019! Click here.

I am also recruiting PhD students to start in fall 2020.

Are you an undergraduate in the LA area looking for research opportunities using fMRI or machine learning? Come be a scientist in the BlankLangLab! You can email me here. If you are a UCLA student, you may be able to receive credit for your work.

You are also welcome to contact me if you have questions about studying or working in UCLA's psychology department or MIT's Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.

Why do your work when you can instead learn about your mind, your brain, and how we study them? Read about thought-provoking findings in my blog, where I explain recent studies in simple words and make psychology accessible to everyone.

Or watch videos of my colleagues and me talk about our science! Whether you are a novice or an expert, you are sure to find exciting lectures and workshops.