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Neural fingerprints in bilingualism and dyslexia: neurofeedback training to enhance language learning

English title Neural fingerprints in bilingualism and dyslexia: neurofeedback training to enhance language learning
Applicant Golestani Narly
Number 182381
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 Psychology
Start/End 01.02.2019 - 31.07.2023
Approved amount 890'104.00
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All Disciplines (3)

Discipline
Psychology
Neurophysiology and Brain Research
Other languages and literature

Keywords (9)

dyslexia remediation; second language learning; language; structural magnetic resonance imaging; functional magnetic resonance imaging; myelination; auditory cortex; computational modelling; fMRI neurofeedback training

Lay Summary (French)

Lead
La dyslexie implique des déficits langagiers, à différents niveaux de traitement dont le traitement phonologique et la lecture. Il y a aussi des déficits de mémoire de travail, de l'apprentissage statistique, et l'apprentissage procédural. D'autre part, la maitrise de plusieurs langues chez les bi-/multilingues demande des compétences langagières particulières, non seulement pour la maitrise linguistique de plusieurs langues mais aussi pour le contrôle exécutif du langage.
Lay summary

Ce projet va bénéficier d'approches de pointe en modélisation computationnelle pour permettre d'aller plus loin que les études d'imagerie cérébrales traditionnelles, pour permettre de mieux comprendre les mécanismes neurales soutenant le traitement du langage, dans le contexte de la dyslexie et du bilinguisme. Ces ‘empreintes linguistiques’ neurales seront ensuite utilisées dans le cadre d’une intervention basée sur le neurofeedback par imagerie résonance magnétique fonctionnelle, pour aider des monolingues souhaitant apprendre la deuxième langue en question à moduler leurs activations cérébrales pour accélérer l'apprentissage de cette deuxième langue. Ces personnes suivront en parallèle des cours de langue, et on s'attend à ce que l'intervention par neurofeedback leur permette d'apprendre la langue cible plus vite que des personnes appartenant un à group control (ces derniers recevront du ‘sham’ et non du vrai neurofeedback). Ces recherches permettront de mieux comprendre comment le cerveau soutient le langage dans la dyslexie et dans le bilinguisme, et permettra de savoir si on peut utiliser des interventions à base d'imagerie cérébrale pour accélérer l'apprentissage d'une deuxième langue.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 12.02.2019

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Abstract

Dyslexia is a reading disorder manifested by different subtypes, with phonological deficits being common. A broad range of behavioural deficits beyond reading deficits have been observed in dyslexia, including phonological processing and awareness, processing of rapidly changing information, working memory, statistical learning, procedural learning, visuo-spatial attention and sensori-motor processing. In line with this, brain functional and structural imaging has revealed abnormalities in the function and structure of the auditory cortex, and of regions including the left inferior frontal cortex, occipito-temporal regions, parieto-temporal regions, the cerebellum and subcortical regions. An emerging view in dyslexia research is that arises from an underlying procedural learning deficit, resulting in difficulties with the learning and control of established sensorimotor and cognitive skills, habits and procedures. In contrast, bilingualism entailed the successful learning of the ability to manipulate and control multiple linguistic repertories, at phonological, lexical, syntactic and prosodic levels. Recent work has also shown that the implicit learning of an artificial language, which likely relies more on a procedural memory system, results in more native-like neural responses than the explicit of an artificial grammar, which more likely depends on declarative memory. Neuroimaging research has established the roles of multiple and interacting linguistic and executive brain networks in bilingualism, ranging from low-level auditory regions to higher-level regions involved in phonological awareness and working memory, semantic and syntactic processing, in the processing of linguistic prosody and in domain-general executive and attentional control. Although we have a good understanding of which brain networks underlie these respective levels of language processing, systematic investigations of how language-specific typological differences modulate neural processing in bilinguals are grossly lacking. Similarly, the results of studies on brain structural differences between mono- and bilinguals are very heterogeneous, maybe because language-specific typological differences have not thus been accounted for in such studies. The overarching goal of this proposal is to significantly advance our understanding of brain functional and structural underpinnings of dyslexia and of bilingualism, using state-of-the-art brain imaging and data analysis methods. Specifically, ultra-high resolution brain functional imaging will be combined with advanced computational modelling methods (model-based decoding) to identify distributed neural signatures, or ‘fingerprints’, underlying the processing of phonology, prosody and statistical learning dyslexia, and of semantics, syntax, prosody and statistical learning in bilingualism. For the latter, we will study bilinguals who speak pairs of languages that are typologically very different at multiple linguistic levels, or that are more similar to one another typologically, yielding ‘language-specific neural fingerprints’. Careful behavioural assessment of acoustic, phonological and reading skills in dyslexia, and of language proficiency and experience in bilinguals will be performed alongside multi-modal assessment of brain structural features including myelin mapping, auditory cortex characterisation and white matter connectivity to provide detailed neuro-behavioural profiling in dyslexia and in bilingualism. These advances will be used in a complementary subproject to develop a novel intervention (i.e. training) approach, with the primary goal of providing complimentary, causal evidence regarding the functional relevance of the language-specific neural fingerprints in the above bilingualism study, and second, to provide proof-of-concept advances for a new approach aimed at facilitating foreign language learning in healthy monolingual individuals. Specifically, the language-specific neuro-functional fingerprints established in bilinguals will be used as target regions for a real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) neurofeedback training study in monolinguals wishing to learn one of the languages for which neural language-specific fingerprints has been established. If successful, these studies will significantly advance our understanding of the neural alterations underling dyslexia, and of the neural basis of bilingualism, with consideration of language-specific typological features. Further, they will lead to meaningful advances in approaches aimed at enhancing and accelerating second language learning in healthy individuals.
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