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Neurophysiological correlates of bilingual advantage and its contribution to cognitive reserve

Project description

Bilingual elderly cognitive abilities put to the test

Research into bilingual advantages in executive functioning suggests bilingualism delays clinical manifestation of Alzheimer’s disease by five years. Also, lifelong bilingualism is associated with higher cognitive reserve, which is the mind’s resistance to damage of the brain. Finding ways to prevent cognitive decline in the elderly is important considering Europe’s ageing population. In this context, the EU-funded BILINGUALPLAS project will study the specific cognitive processes related to bilingual advantage in executive functions and the underlying neural correlates. Four samples of healthy elderly (monolinguals/bilinguals with low/high cognitive reserve) will perform two cognitive tasks during an electroencephalogram recording. The project will study the neural correlates of cognitive processes occurring during the tasks’ performance.

Objective

Studies reported that bilingualism strengths executive functions in elderly and delays the Alzheimer’s disease (AD) onset for five years. These findings suggest that bilingualism enhances the cognitive reserve (CR). CR is a construct that includes a set of cognitively stimulating experiences (e.g. high education level, high occupational status) that enhance brain functional connectivity, leading to better cognitive functioning and delayed clinical AD onset. Since brain functional modulations maintained for a long period of time result in structural changes, studies suggested that enhanced functional and structural connectivity provide to persons with high CR greater resilience against changes related to physiological and pathological ageing. Considering the European population ageing, study of variables related to CR is crucial to prevent the cognitive decline in elderly and for the maintenance of public health systems. The aim of this project is studying the specific cognitive processes related to bilingual advantage in executive functions and the underlying neural correlates. Studies often failed to find a relationship between bilingualism and better executive functions. These studies often focused on cognitive control to inhibit irrelevant information but recent research suggested that bilingualism is mainly related to better attentional switching abilities. Also, high CR of the participants or low difficulty of the performed task could mask a bilingual advantage due to a ceiling effect in cognitive performance. Four samples of healthy elderly (monolinguals and bilinguals with low and high CR) will perform two cognitive tasks during an electroencephalogram (EEG) recording. Neural correlates of cognitive processes occurring during the tasks performance will be studied by using event-related potentials. Functional connectivity will be studied through EEG coherence and graph theory whereas structural connectivity will be studied by using diffusion weighted imaging.

Coordinator

BCBL BASQUE CENTER ON COGNITION BRAIN AND LANGUAGE
Net EU contribution
€ 172 932,48
Address
PASEO MIKELETEGI 69 2
20009 San Sebastian
Spain

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Region
Noreste País Vasco Gipuzkoa
Activity type
Research Organisations
Links
Total cost
€ 172 932,48