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1. Are language control processes selectively impaired after brain damage in bilinguals?

Brain lesions over subcortical (e.g., basal ganglia) and cortical structures may affect language control processes, such as switching and cross-language suppression. We have studied the extent to which language-switching abilities are selectively impaired in bilingual patients with Parkinson’s disease (Cattaneo et al, 2015; 2020) and Huntington’s disease (Calabria et al., 2021). Similarly, we have explored whether cross-language suppression is differently affected by the type of neurogenerative diseases (Calabria, 2023). We are currently exploring the role of memory-related processes on language switching in patients with Primary Progressive Aphasia.

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. We have investigated the role of semantics (Calabria et al., 2019) and phonology (Calabria et al., 2020) on speech production in bilingual patients with post-stroke aphasia (for more details, see this talk). We are currently investigating the specificity of the discourse markers in distinguishing the three variants of Primary Progressive Aphasia.

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

Preliminary results suggest that lifelong and active use of the two languages may delay the symptoms onset of Mild Cognitive Impairment(Calabria et al., 2020). However, it is unclear what drives this bilingual advantage in patients with neurodegenerative diseases. We are currently investigating the underlying mechanisms of such a bilingual advantage in collaboration with the Barcelonaβeta Brain Research Center by exploring both cognitive and neural data in a large sample of individuals. Additionally, we are 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. 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 explain 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 and our recent publication (Calabria et al., 2023).