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CCN Seminar - Bilingualism and the Brain

The Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience is pleased to invite you to a bonus lunchtime talk as part of the 2017-18 Research Seminar series. We will be hearing from Prof. Brendan Weekes, for more information and an abstract please see below. Lunch will be provided and the seminar is open to all.

Many studies have investigated the cognitive processes used to produce words in multilingual speakers. However, one criticism of this research is the emphasis on Indo-European languages. The question posed in this presentation is whether the cognitive processes that have been assumed in models of language processing (naming, reading and spelling) apply to multilingual speakers. This question is important because a majority of the global population is multilingual and use very different writing systems. Indeed, even within a language e.g. Japanese and Korean - two or more scripts must be learned to become literate. The outcome of my research shows that script does matter in neuro-cognitive processing of written words with implications for universal models of reading and writing. The results also have some clinical implications for the diagnosis and treatment of aphasia, dyslexia and dysgraphia in multilingual speakers.

Scientific abstract

Studies in Hong Kong demonstrate that the anterior conflate (ACC) is a necessary neural substrate supporting cognitive reserve in bilingual seniors. The ACC is a key structure implicated in the regulation of cognitive control (CC). Variability in the ACC sulcal pattern – a neurodevelopmental marker not affected by maturation or plasticity after birth – is associated with CC. We investigated the interaction between ACC sulcation and levels of linguistic on CC in a multi-centre study across cultures and ethnicity. Distributional analyses revealed a significant prevalence of leftward ACC asymmetry unaffected by ethnicity. CC efficiency was differentially modulated by sulcal variability in bilinguals and monolinguals, with a reversed pattern of structure-function relationship. Our findings provide novel evidence that bilingualism has an impact on brain structure.

Speaker Bio

Professor Brendan Stuart Weekes Chair in Communication Science at the University of Hong Kong (HKU). Director of the Language, Science and Disorders Laboratory HKU. Professor Weekes is an internationally recognized expert in the field of language and memory processing in individuals who have communication disorders as well as the application of cognitive neuroscience methods to the diagnosis and treatment of language impairment. He is on the editorial boards of Aphasiology, Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, Languages, Language Science, and Psicologia reflecting his interests in communication disorders and experimental psychology in different languages. He has also served on expert review panels for the Australian Research Council, British Academy, BBSRC, the Economic and Social Research Council, Research Grants Council Hong Kong, Royal Society, UK Medical Research Council and the National Science Foundation, USA. He serves on the Heath (Medicine) Panel for the RAE in Hong Kong and he is a Professorial Fellow at the University of Melbourne and the University of Science and Technology (Beijing) Professor Weekes has served on many committees including the Academy of Aphasia and the ESRC and has been the Director of Laboratories and Technical Equipment, Ethics (Sussex), Undergraduate Studies, Ethics, and Clinical programmes (ANU).


For more information please contact Samantha Thomasson on 01895268540 or via email Samantha.Thomasson@brunel.ac.uk