My research

1. How are non-linguistic deficits impacting language control after brain damage in bilinguals?

Brain lesions over subcortical structures, such as basal ganglia, may affect both language control and general-domain control. Nevertheless, not all the subprocesses are affected in the same, for instance, more reactive than proactive mechanisms (Cattaneo et al, 2015; 2020). Therefore, the study of speech production in patients with diseases affecting basal ganglia is crucial for describing the nature and architecture of bilingual language control.

2. How does brain damage impact speech production in bilingual patients?

Both neurodegenerative and cerebrovascular diseases may affect speech production in bilinguals. Nevertheless, not all levels of linguistic processing are affected similarly in the two languages. Therefore, it is important to assess within-language processes for each specific component, such as semantics, lexicon, phonology and motor planning. Hence, the specificity of language impairments following brain damage helps investigate each linguistic component within- and between-languages.

3. In which way bilingualism may protect against cognitive decline?

Preliminary results are suggesting that lifelong and active use of the two languages may delay the symptoms onset of Mild Cognitive impairment and this might be mediated by a higher efficiency of bilinguals’ executive control. In a study (Calabria et al., 2020) we found that the delay of onset of the cognitive impairment was explained by a composite measures of bilingualism, such as high language proficiency, balanced use of both languages and high frequency of language switching (active bilingualism). Also, we found that this bilingual advantage was associated with better conflict monitoring. Now we are now investigating whether conflict monitoring is associated with bilingual advantage in active and inactive bilinguals with Parkinson’s disease.

4. Does background music boost memory and learning in patients with Mild cognitive impairment?

The main aim of this project is to investigate whether background music acts as a memory enhancer in people with Mild Cognitive Impairment, based on previous evidence in healthy older adults. Indeed, long-term episodic memory is arguably the most affected cognitive ability in AD from disease onset at its pre-clinical stages, therefore, research should focus on these compensatory strategies to restore memory deficits. Moreover, we aim to investigate alternative theories that explained the critical role of both background processes driven by context-dependent factors and the arousal induced by music. For more details, see the webpage of the project MEM-COG.