Evy Woumans

IMG_1352 - Version 2Effect of bilingualism on cognition

Previous research into the bilingual advantage has shown improved executive functioning in several types of bilingual populations. For example, bilingual children have been found to outperform their monolingual peers in various non-linguistic tasks involving executive control (Bialystok, 2005). When comparing monolingual and bilingual middle-aged and older adults; Bialystok, Klein, Craik, and Viswanathan (2004) found that bilingualism was associated with smaller conflict effect costs for both age groups, but the difference in cost was most prominently present between groups of older participants. Moreover, bilingualism is thought to delay symptoms of degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Findings to support this statement have been found in both behavioural (Bialystok, Craik, & Freedman, 2007) and imaging studies (Schweizer, Ware, Fischer, Craik, & Bialystok, 2011).
My research focuses on the abovementioned advantages and tries to unravel the mysteries behind it.  The most important aspect of my PhD is verifying the role of different linguistic variables; such as language switching behaviour, age of second language acquisition, frequency of use of the second language, and degree of bilingualism. In order to obtain clear results, different bilingual populations take part in the studies (early bilinguals, skilled and less skilled bilinguals, interpreters etc.). Furthermore, this PhD aims at assessing the effects of immersion on cognitive development in children, and determining whether or not bilinguals have more cognitive reserve and will be more protected against degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. In summary, this research tries to paint a picture of the bilingual advantage across the lifespan.

References

Bialystok, E. (2005). Consequences of bilingualism for cognitive development. In J. R. Kroll & A. de Groot (Eds.), Handbook of bilingualism: Psycholinguistic approaches (pp. 417–432). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bialystok, E., Craik, F. I. M., & Freedman, M. (2007). Bilingualism as a protection against the onset of symtoms of dementia. Neuropsychologia, 45, 459-464.

Bialystok, E., Klein, R., Craik, F. I. M., & Viswanathan, M. (2004). Bilingualism, aging, and cognitive control: Evidence from the Simon Task. Psychology and Aging, 19, 290-303.

Costa, A., Hernández, M., & Sebastian-Gallés, N. (2008). Bilingualism aids conflict resolution: Evidence from the ANT task. Cognition, 106, 59-86.

Schweizer, T. A., Ware, J., Fischer, C. E., Craik, F. I. M., & Bialystok, E. (2011). Bilingualism as a contributor to cognitive reserve: Evidence from brain atrophy in Alzheimer’s disease. Cortex, 48, 991-996.

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