New publication on the longitudinal effects of bilingualism on brain structure, in Bilingualism: Language and Cognition

DeLuca, V., Rothman, J., & Pliatsikas, C. (2018): Linguistic immersion and structural effects on the bilingual brain: a longitudinal study. To appear in Bilingualism: Language and Cognition

To access, click here


Learning and using additional languages can result in structural changes in the brain. However, the time course of these changes, as well as the factors the predict them, are still not well understood. In this longitudinal study we test the effects of bilingual immersion on brain structure of adult sequential bilinguals not undergoing any language training, who were scanned twice, three years apart. We observed significant increases in grey matter volume in the lower left cerebellum, mean white matter diffusivity in the frontal cortex, and reshaping of the left caudate nucleus and amygdala and bilateral hippocampus. Moreover, both prior length of immersion and L2 age of acquisition were significant predictors of volumetric change in the cerebellum. Taken together, these results indicate that bilingualism-induced neurological changes continue to take place across the lifespan and are strongly related to the quantity and quality of bilingual immersion, even in highly-immersed adult bilingual populations.


Our lab’s YouTube interview with Bilingualism Matters@Reading

Our lab was recently interviewed by Bilingualism Matters@Reading. Toms, Vince and I had the opportunity to talk about our work and our findings, and also provide a small demonstration of our experiments. The full interview can be found here, and it is perfectly accompanied by a blog post by Toms and Vince here.

We would like to thank Bilingualism Matters@Reading, and particularly Professor Ludovica Serratrice and Dr Anna Wolleb, for this wonderful opportunity! As always, if you are interested in knowing more, working or studying with us, or even in participating in one of our studies, feel free to contact us here.

New publication on working memory in older age, in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology

Pliatsikas, C., Veríssimo, J., Babcock, L., Pullman, M.Y., Dana G.A., Weinstein, M., Goldman, N., & Ullman, M.T. (2018): Working memory in older adults declines with age, but is modulated by sex and education. To appear in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology

To access, click here

Working memory (WM), which underlies the temporary storage and manipulation of information, is critical for multiple aspects of cognition and everyday life. Nevertheless, research examining WM specifically in older adults remains limited, despite the global rapid increase in human life expectancy. We examined WM in a large sample (N=754) of healthy older adults (aged 58-89) in a non-Western population (Chinese speakers) in Taiwan, on a digit n-back task. We tested the influence not only of age itself and of load (1-back vs. 2-back), but also effects of both sex and education, which have been shown to modulate WM abilities. Mixed-effects regression revealed that, within older adulthood, age negatively impacted WM abilities (with linear, not nonlinear, effects), as did load (worse performance at 2-back). In contrast, education level was positively associated with WM. Moreover, both age and education interacted with sex. With increasing age, males showed a steeper WM decline than females; with increasing education, females showed greater WM gains than males. Together with other findings, the evidence suggests that age, sex, and education all impact WM in older adults, but interact in particular ways. The results have both basic research and translational implications, and are consistent with particular benefits from increased education for women.


Our lab at the SNL 2018 conference

We are very happy to have been informed that our lab will be represented with four presentations at the upcoming Society for the Neurobiology of Language conference! These are (click on the links for abstracts):

Voits, T., Robson, H., Rothman, J., & Pliatsikas, C.: Beyond dementia: The interaction of bilingualism and neurodegeneration

DeLuca, V., Bialystok, E., Rothman, J, & Pliatsikas, C.: Bilingualism is a Spectrum: Effects of specific language experiences on brain function and executive control in bilinguals

Pliatsikas, C., DeLuca., V, Meteyard, L., Ullman, M.: Bilingualism interacts with age-related cortical thinning in children and adolescents

Pliatsikas, C: Understanding structural plasticity in the multilingual brain: The Dynamic Restructuring Hypothesis. Talk at the Satellite Symposium The Bilingual Brain – A Lifelong Perspective

Exciting times ahead! See you in Quebec City!


Invited talk by Dina Mehmedbegovic


Today our lab hosted Dr Dina Mehmedbegovic from Institute of Education (UCL). Dr Mehmedbegovic discussed the processes that lead to “language hierarchies” in education- for example, why in countries like the United Kingdom languages such as French and Spanish are considered “high value” languages and their teaching is promoted over other languages, which are considered “low value”. She also talked about the concept of a “healthy linguistic diet“, a proposed intervention to policy and practice aiming to raise awareness in additional language learning and to eradicate language hierarchies in education. In all, a very interesting talk!



New PhD opportunity in our lab!

Our lab is part of MultiMind, an EU-funded international multidisciplinary and multisectorial training network on multilingualism. MutliMind has now advertised 15 fully-funded 3-year PhDs across its beneficiary institutions, to commence in Autumn 2018. One of these positions will be a collaboration between our lab and Dr Ngee Thai Yap (Universiti Putra Malaysia), and will be based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with a six-month secondment in Reading, and co-supervision by Christos Pliatsikas and Prof. Doug Saddy. It will investigate brain structure and connectivity in the multilingual and multiliterate brain. Feel free to apply for this exciting opportunity!

For details of the project: click here and scroll down to ESR6.

Click here for the eligibility criteria for MultiMind (including specific to ESR6) and here for the application procedure.

For further information, contact the Principal Investigator, Dr Ngee Thai Yap:


Our new MRI study on bilingualism and ageing is underway!

dementiaOnly three days after we first advertised it, today we scanned our first participant for Toms Voits’ new study on bilingualism and its effects on the brain! If you are over 50 years old and interested in receiving a picture of your brain, check here for the details of this study. We are particularly interested in participants diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) or early stages of dementia.