Bilingualism, Aging, and Cognitive Control

Project: Research project

Project Details


This postdoctoral fellowship grant supports a recent Ph.D. graduate in the interdisciplinary field of psycholinguistics. Findings from this research will inform whether gaining a second language proficiency has widespread effects on how reading comprehension ability is impacted by cognitive decline. They may also have implications for the availability and necessity of second language learning in early education. The research also contributes to the infrastructure of science in two ways: (1) by including a more diverse sample of research participants than is typical in psycholinguistic research, and (2) by involving the mentorship of research assistants who come from groups that are historically under-represented in scientific research. Results from this research are disseminated to broad audiences at national and international academic conferences in an effort to inform the community about the potential benefits of being bilingual and counteract stereotypes about second language use and proficiency, especially in older adult populations.

Within the language domain, readers form predictions about what language input is likely to come next. Of particular interest is whether and how well readers recover when the predictions they generate prove to be incorrect (i.e., when unexpected, though plausible language input is encountered). The proposed study will utilize the timecourse sensitivity of event-related potential (ERP) methodology to determine what mechanism(s) underlie successful recovery from this type of mis-prediction. The PI previously completed PhD training in electrophysiological measures of language processing with a focus on semantics and language comprehension, and has recently received training in bilingualism and second language (L2) processing. The current application takes advantage of that training and expands the PI?s previous work to study prediction in populations that have not previously been examined in this area of research, primarily: older adult bilingual speakers. Bilingualism provides a rich environment for examining two crucial aspects of prediction: (1) whether resource limitations or differences in the nature of L2 processing constrain readers? ability to generate predictions online, and (2) whether inhibitory control affects readers? sensitivity to prediction costs. Inhibitory control has been implicated as a critical process in the successful recovery from mis-prediction. As inhibitory control has also been shown to change significantly as a function of L2 experience and cognitive decline, the proposed project will inform current theories across multiple disciplines, including psychology, linguistics, aging, and neuroscience. The current research agenda, therefore, has the potential to further our understanding of how healthy aging impacts language processing in the brain, and provide a novel way of looking at how bilingual experience may apply to the domain of reading comprehension within this context.

Effective start/end date7/1/1411/30/16


  • National Science Foundation: $198,088.00


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.