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How bilingualism modulates the neural mechanisms of selective attention

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Theme: Social Brains and Communication

Abstract: Learning and using multiple languages places considerable demands on our cognitive system, and has been shown to modulate the mechanisms of selective attention in both children and adults. Yet the nature of these adaptive changes is still not entirely clear. One possibility is that bilingualism boosts the capacity for selective attention; another is that it leads to a different distribution of this finite resource, aimed at supporting optimal performance under the increased processing demands. I will present a series of studies investigating the nature of modifications of selective attention in bilingualism. Using behavioural and neuroimaging techniques, our data confirm that bilingualism modifies the neural mechanisms of selective attention even in the absence of behavioural differences between monolinguals and bilinguals. They further suggest that, instead of enhanced attentional capacity, these neuroadaptive modifications appear to reflect its redistribution, arguably aimed at economising the available resources to support optimal behavioural performance.

Biography: Mirjana Bozic is Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology, University of Cambridge, and Fellow and Director of Studies for Psychological and Behavioural Sciences at King’s College, Cambridge. She holds a degree in Psychology from the University of Novi Sad, Serbia, and MPhil and PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience from the University of Cambridge. After her PhD she was a Career Development Fellow at MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, before taking her position as a University Lecturer in the Department of Psychology. Her research aims to understand the cognitive and neural mechanisms that underpin language comprehension; to explore how these mechanisms may have evolved; and to understand how our brains adapt to the requirements of learning and using more than one language. Register in advance for this seminar:

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This talk is part of the Cambridge Neuroscience Interdisciplinary Seminars series.

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