Elizabeth Bates, 56, an expert on how the brain processes language and a professor of cognitive science at UC San Diego, died Saturday in San Diego of pancreatic cancer.
Bates was on the founding faculty of the school's department of cognitive science, the first academic department of its kind in the United States.
As director of the department's Center for Research in Language, she worked on studies in more than 20 languages on four continents.
A prolific scholarly writer, Bates was an authority on how children learn language and the effects of injuries and strokes on linguistic capability.
She was particularly known for her research showing the brain's flexibility or adaptability that enables learning of language despite some brain injury, and she believed that several areas of the brain, rather than a single portion, are involved in language.
Earlier this year, Bates and others developed a new way to map specific areas of the brain that are crucial in the acquisition of language and other functions.
After earning her doctorate in human development from the University of Chicago, Bates taught at the University of Colorado before moving to UC San Diego in 1981.
She was also a visiting scholar at the National Research Council Institute of Psychology in Rome.