Juan Manuel Toro

jmtoro's picture

ICREA Research Professor
Head of group

juanmanuel.toro@upf.edu 55.103a

I am currently an ICREA Research Professor (and on my spare time, I am also coordinating the Master in Brain and Cognition). I studied Psychology at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, and then moved to the Universitat de Barcelona for a Ph.D. After graduating, I spent three years as a postdoc with Jacques Mehler at the LCD lab at SISSA. My research is focused on how humans acquire and process language. Besides studying this issue with adults and infants, I also approach it from a comparative perspective, doing studies with animals. For example, some time ago, we showed rats can extract prosodic information present in speech in a similar way human infants do (a study that recently was named as one of the five best Ig Nobel prize-winning scientific papers). More recently, we demonstrated that animals outperform humans in a rule learning task, very likely because non-human species lack linguistic representations that constrain pattern extraction in human adults and infants.

To have a better idea of our current work, this article presents a general summary:

Toro, J.M. (2016) Something old, something new: Combining mechanisms during language acquisition. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 25, 130-134.


Some selected publications:

Toro, J.M., Nespor, M., & Gervain, J. (2016). Frequency-based organization of speech sequences in a non-human animal. Cognition, 146, 1-7.

de la Mora, D., & Toro, J.M. (2013). Rule learning over consonants and vowels in a non-human animal. Cognition, 126, 307-312.

Toro, J.M. Nespor, M., Mehler, J., & Bonatti, L. (2008).  Finding words and rules in a speech stream: functional differences between vowels and consonants. Psychological Science, 19, 137-144.

Pons, F., & Toro, J.M. (2010). Structural generalizations over consonants and vowels in 11-month-old infants.  Cognition, 116, 361-367.

Toro, J.M., Sinnett, S., & Soto-Faraco, S.  (2005).  Speech segmentation by statistical learning depends on attention. Cognition, 97, B25-B34.

Toro, J.M., & Trobalón, J.B.  (2005).  Statistical computations over a speech stream in a rodent. Perception & Psychophysics. 67, 867-875.

Toro, J.M., Trobalón, J.B., Sebastián-Gallés, N.  (2003).  The use of prosodic cues in language discrimination tasks by rats. Animal Cognition, 6, 131-136.


If you want to check some citation metrics, please visit my ResearcherID. Alternatively, here is my profile in Google Scholar.


Current funding for our research comes from different sources. The main ones are:

Project: Biological origins of linguistic constraints (312519 - BioCon). European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant. 2013-2018. PI: Juan Manuel Toro.

Project: Shaping pattern detection by linguistic representations (PSI2013-44992-P). Ministerio de Economía. 2014-2016. PI: Juan Manuel Toro.

Project: Computational limits in the extraction of linguistic structures (PSI2010-20029). Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación. 2011-2014. PI: Juan Manuel Toro.

Project: Grup de Recerca en Neurociència Cognitiva (GRNC; SGR-1210). Generalitat de Cataluña, AGAUR. 2014-2016.  PI: Albert Costa.

Project: Bilinguismo y cerebro (BRAINGLOT; CSD2007-00012). Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación. Consolider Ingenio program. 2008-2013. PI: Núria Sebastián-Gallés.


Our studies have received some honors and awards, including:

Premio Extraordinario de Doctorado.  Universitat de Barcelona.

Ig Nobel on Linguistics.

Cambio magazine  "50 personajes de Colombia".

Mención de Honor (Categoría de Ciencias Físicas, Exactas y Naturales), Fundación Alejandro Angel Escobar.


Besides the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, I have also had the opportunity to work on other great labs:

Language, Cognition and Development Lab. SISSA/ISAS (Trieste, Italy), with Jacques Mehler.

Primate Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory. Harvard University (Cambridge, MA, U.S.A), with Marc Hauser.

Center for Language Sciences.  University of Rochester (Rochester, NY, U.S.A), with Richard Aslin.

Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience.  University College of London (London, UK), with Uta Frith.


I have been invited to review for:

Applied Psycholinguistics

Attention, Perception & Psychophysics

Behavior Research Methods

Behavioural Processes

Bilingualism: Language and Cognition

Biology Letters



Current Biology

Current Directions in Psychological Science

Developmental Science

Journal of the Acoustical Society of America

Journal of Comparative Psychology

Journal of Experimental Child Psychology

Journal of Experimental Psychology: General

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition

Journal of Memory and Language

Journal of Phonetics

Language and Cognitive Processes

Language and Speech

Language Learning & Development

PLoS One


Psychonomic Bulletin and Review

Revista Latinoamericana de Psicología

Trends in Neurosciences

And for these funding agencies:

Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANS; France)

Agencia Nacional de Evaluación y Prospectiva (ANEP; Spain)

European Research Council

Ministerio de Economía (Spain)


Also, I do editorial work for:

Journal of Language Evolution: Associate Editor

Revista Colombiana de Psicología: Scientific Committee

Frontiers in Language Sciences: Review Editor