From bench to lab: the cognitive neuropsychology of bilingualism

Thematic Section: Synergies & confrontations: socio- and psycholinguistic, cognitive and neuroscientific approaches to bilingualism

history of ideas, neuroplasticity, adaptation, translanguaging, code switching

Marco Calabria, Faculty of Health Sciences, Open University of Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain

Psycholinguistic research on bilingualism has demonstrated to be a powerful approach to investigate language and cognition in bilinguals. Neuroimaging findings have been crucial to define the underlying brain networks of linguistic and nonlinguistic control of a bilingual’s two languages. However, much less is known about the relationship between these two perspectives, namely the role of neuropsychology in the context of language disorders in bilinguals with brain damage. This perspective has the potential to provide robust evidence for the models of bilingual cognition and to test the predictions of the bilingual brain models. In this talk I will discuss some brain-behavior relationships to define a more broad perspective of bilingualism by means of cognitive neuropsychology. In particular, I will discuss three main ideas that have been explored so far and the most relevant findings that this research has gathered. First, the importance of the single-case approach for the study of language in bilinguals. Single-case studies are very useful to explore the predictions from the cognitive models of bilingualism and I will provide some examples of this kind of approach. Second, neurodegenerative diseases help improve our knowledge about how bilingual language control works. Recent findings from the study of the language switching abilities in patients with Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease have opened new perspective to investigate executive functions and cognitive reserve in bilinguals. Finally, I will discuss the psycholinguistic perspective on the research of lexical retrieval deficits in aphasia. In this context, it is crucial to use robust experimental paradigms intended to explore in a more fine-grained way each level of the linguistic processing, from semantic to lexicon to phonology.