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Experience-dependant brain structural and functional plasticity in simultaneous language interpreters

English title Experience-dependant brain structural and functional plasticity in simultaneous language interpreters
Applicant Golestani Narly
Number 122085
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Département des neurosciences fondamentales Faculté de Médecine Université de Genève
Institution of higher education University of Geneva - GE
Main discipline Neurophysiology and Brain Research
Start/End 01.11.2008 - 31.03.2012
Approved amount 331'000.00
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Keywords (15)

brain imaging; brain functions; language; learning; plasticity; functional plasticity; structural plasticity; fMRI; aMRI; DTI; DSI; EEG; simultaneous language interpretation; training; longitudinal

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary
An important question in cognitive neuroscience research is whether or not experience may alter brain structure and function. We plan to examine both functional and structural plasticity in a group of individuals who will be studying to become simultaneous language interpreters. Simultaneous language interpretation is a highly complex linguistic task involving performing active, ‘on-line’ switching between languages, and producing speech in one language while fully processing it in another. Interpreters are thus very skilled at language control and selection. We will test 20-25 individuals before they begin a 14-month interpretation course, and we will test them again 9 months later, and a last time at the end of their course using the below described 4 complimentary methodologies. We will also test 20 to 25 healthy control individuals who will not be receiving interpretation training, matched for age, sex, education level, and multilingualism with the interpreters, at similar time points to control for brain changes resulting from time and from non-specific learning. Study 1. We will evaluate structural brain plasticity arising from intensive training by acquiring high-resolution structural magnetic resonance imaging (aMRI) in the interpreters. We predict that we will find evidence for structural change in the interpreters in brain regions previously found to be involved in ‘control’ aspects of speech, including the anterior cingulate gyrus and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices, as well as in subcortical regions. Study 2. Participants will be scanned using diffusion tensor (DTI) and diffusion spectrum imaging (DSI) techniques. These techniques allow to evaluate white matter connectivity between brain regions. In other words, they allow to ‘track’ white matter fibres in order to determine which brain areas are ‘talking’ to which other brain areas. We predict that we will find changes in white matter connectivity between the above regions in the interpreters. Study 3. We will examine fMRI data acquired during a simultaneous language interpretation task, and we expect to see functional changes after compared to before training in interpreters in control and executive brain regions. Study 4. We will examine functional plasticity using EEG during picture naming and language switching. We predict that training in interpreters will lead to faster activation of a left-hemispheric fronto-parietal neuronal network previously implicated in language selection. The proposed projects are expected to be of very high impact as only few studies have shown direct evidence for human structural plasticity, and as to our knowledge no study has to date shown evidence for training-related white matter plasticity in humans. Evidence for structural and functional brain plasticity will also have important applications in various clinical domains including the post-stroke recovery and recovery following brain surgery, but also in the treatment of certain psychiatric and neurological conditions such as depression, autism, dyslexia, and other learning disorders.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Executive control of language in the bilingual brain: integrating the evidence from neuroimaging to neuropsychology.
Hervais-Adelman Alexis Georges, Moser-Mercer Barbara, Golestani Narly (2011), Executive control of language in the bilingual brain: integrating the evidence from neuroimaging to neuropsychology., in Frontiers in psychology, 2, 234-234.

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Alpine Brain Imaging Meeting 09.01.2012 Champery, Switzerland
International Congress on Neuroscience XI 31.08.2011 Palma de Mallorca, Spain
The plastic brain (workshop) 08.06.2011 Basel, Switzerland
Swiss Society for Neuroscience Annual meeting 26.03.2011 Basel, Switzerland
XXVIIIth Journees d'etude sur la Parole 25.05.2010 Mons, Belgium
Cognitive Neuroscience Society meeting 17.04.2010 Montreal, Canada
Swiss Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting 13.03.2010 Lausanne, Switzerland
The Alpine Brain Imaging Meeting 10.01.2010 Champery, Switzerland


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Media relations: radio, television Le cerveau 100 milliards de neurones toujours en mouvement film Western Switzerland 14.03.2012
Talks/events/exhibitions Semaine du Cerveau, Geneva Western Switzerland 12.03.2012

Awards

Title Year
International Symposium on Bilingualism 8 poster prize (first place) 2011

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
163756 Relative contributions of experience-dependent plasticity and of ‘innate’ influences on the brain and cognition 01.04.2016 SNSF Professorships
133701 Relative contributions of experience-dependent plasticity and of ‘innate’ influences on the brain and cognition 01.04.2012 SNSF Professorships

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