Areas of Study


The National Science Foundation of Science of Learning Center on Visual Language and Visual Learning (VL2) advances knowledge on how human higher cognition is realized through vision. Our groundbreaking research and translation labs seek to determine the effects of visual processes, visual language, and social experience on the development of cognition, language, reading, and literacy for the benefit of society.

We especially pursue new perspectives on these learning processes through the widened vantage point of studying deaf individuals and sign language as a window into the flexibility and structure of the human mind. We study these learning processes in monolinguals and bilinguals across the lifespan in order to promote optimal practices in education in both formal and informal settings.

VL2 is also the home of the Ph.D in Educational Neuroscience program (PEN), in which students conduct supervised research within their mentor’s lab as well as develop their own lines of research through independent research projects. During those four years, our students gain state-of-the-art cognitive neuroscience training in how humans learn and become an expert in cutting-edge neuroimaging methods. Learn more about the pioneering PEN program.

To learn more about our labs, projects and collaborations, doctoral program, and upcoming events, visit our website.


Petitto Brain and Language Center for Neuroimaging (BL2)
BL2 specializes in research on early brain development and how biological foundations and environmental influences impact bilingual development and cognitive processing.
Action & Brain Lab
ABL investigates how sign language impacts spatial processing and how action-related and language-related brain systems interact within the context of signed language.
Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab (CAN)
CAN investigates the cognitive and affective processes that influence learning and how negative emotions can have detrimental mental, biological, and academic outcomes.
Early Education and Literacy Lab (EL2)
EL2 develops and distributes toolkits to measure young deaf children’s language and cognitive development and develops assessments to measure children’s language and cognitive development.
Motion Light Lab (ML2)
ML2 pursues creative literature and digital technology that integrate with VL2 science to create new knowledge and benefit society.
Numeracy and Educational Neuroscience Lab (NENS)
NENS investigates the cognitive and neural foundations of numeracy and how the use of a visual language from birth can support the acquisition of early number skills.
Translation in the Science of Learning Lab (TL2)
TL2 acts as a gateway between VL2 research discoveries and schools, families and homes, museums, libraries, medical clinics, policymakers, and more.

Meet the Team


Laura-Ann Petitto

Professor/Science Director/Co-Pl/Co-Director for Program Dev for 6th Street Project


Bradley White

Senior Research Manager

Crystal Padilla

Research Services Coordinator

Glenn Lockhart

Executive Director

Melissa Malzkuhn

Director, Motion Light Lab

Ralph Fernandez

Database Analyst

Yiqiao Wang

Creative Designer

John Huang

Operations Specialist

Jason Lamberton

Interactive Engineer

Charles Harris

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Brigitta Luttrell

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Md Shahinur Alam

Postdoctoral Associate

Contact Us

Visual Language and Visual Learning (VL2)

Laura-Ann Petitto

Sorenson Language and Communication Center 1226

(202) 651-5085

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