Current Colloquia Schedule: Fall 2016 – Winter 2017

Date: April 11, 2017  12 noon – 4pm

2017 ICS Spring Conference

Date: Mar. 9, 2017:  1pm – 2:30pm Dunton Tower 2203

Speaker: Olessia Jouravlev, McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Title: Mysteries of the Bilingual Mind

Abstract: About 60% of the world’s population is bilingual or multilingual. Managing several languages is a challenging task: Bilinguals often make speech errors allegedly due to interference effects that languages have on each other. How do bilinguals manage several languages within one mind? And how are different languages represented in the bilingual brain? These are the key questions in my program of bilingual research. One theoretical possibility is that native (L1) and non-native (L2) languages are stored, processed, and organized in separate neuroanatomical systems in the brain. Further, according to this view, bilinguals have a capacity to select/de-select L1 or L2, depending on the communicative situation. An alternative view is that there is a single linguistic neuroanatomical system in the brain that gets activated when any language is used. Bilinguals seem to be in control of what language they speak because they actively inhibit an irrelevant language.

In my research, I combine behavioral, eye-tracking, electrophysiological (EEG/ERP), and neuroimaging (fMRI) methodologies to solve some mysteries of the bilingual mind/brain. On this quest, I discovered strong evidence that bilinguals’ languages are always co-activated. This co-activation of languages takes place even when (i) bilinguals speak typologically dissimilar languages; (ii) L2 is acquired relatively late in life and bilinguals’ L2 proficiency is not high; and even when (iii) local and global contexts cue that only one language is relevant (should be selected). Further, I demonstrated that this co-activation of languages happens at all linguistic levels, down to the level of speech sounds and letters. I also determined that inhibition of an irrelevant language is never strong enough to preclude a bilingual from processing it even when content in the irrelevant language is outside of the bilingual’s conscious awareness.  Finally, I examined intricate patterns of activations within the language network in the brain in response to L1 and L2 in three different groups of bilinguals, who varied in their L2 proficiency levels and/or age of acquisition. The results of neuroimaging studies provided further support to the idea that bilinguals’ languages rely on the common neural resources, although some differences in representations of L1 and L2 were also found.

This research helps us understand types of challenges in neurocognitive computations and executive control functioning that people speaking multiple languages face on daily basis. While the issue of potential neurocognitive advantage(s) of multilingualism is a heated topic of debate in the field, I am currently attempting to probe the validity of this idea in my research. In addition, I explore whether multilingualism might have any positive effect on social communicative abilities of individuals with high autistic and psychopathic feature(s) load.

Note: You are welcome to bring your lunch.

Date: Mar. 2, 2017:  1pm – 2:30pm Dunton Tower 2203

Speaker: Shanna Kousaie, Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University

Title: The Impact of Bilingualism on Cognition and the Brain

Abstract: It is estimated that more than 50% of the world’s population is bilingual; however, the majority of language research has focused on monolinguals. Furthermore, the last decade has seen a surge in research suggesting that bilingual language experience has an impact not only on language processing, but also on cognition more globally.

The primary goal of my research is to increase our understanding of the interaction between language experience, cognition, and the brain. In this talk, I will discuss three separate, but interrelated lines of research that examine these interactions. First, I will discuss my research that uses event-related brain potentials (ERPs) to examine how bilinguals differ from monolinguals in terms of cognitive control. I will show that there are language group differences in how the brain responds to conflict that are suggestive of an advantage for bilinguals, even in the absence of behavioural differences. I will then present research examining the influence of bilingual language experience on a language-processing task that places demands on cognitive control. Using ERPs I show that bilinguals demonstrate differences in the processing of lexical ambiguity compared to monolinguals, suggesting a potential effect of bilingualism on the interaction between cognitive control and language processing. Finally, I will discuss recent work that is using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine how language experience is related to brain structure and function. Specifically, I will show that different language learning experiences impact resting-state brain networks, and will briefly discuss how this can be further explored using EEG.

These results demonstrate that bilingualism exerts a positive influence on the brain, beyond simply the ability to communicate in more than one language. Furthermore, a greater understanding of the mechanism(s) through which language experience impacts the brain and cognition has implications for our understanding of brain plasticity. The findings from this research program can influence and inform educational policy, language learning abilities, and models of language and cognitive development/decline.

Note: you are welcome to bring your lunch.

Date: Feb. 16, 2017:  1pm – 2:30pm Dunton Tower 2203

Speaker: Dr. Xiaoming (Jason) Jiang, Neuropragmatics and Emotion lab in the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders in the faculty of Medicine, McGill University.

Title: Bridging Language Use and Social Cognition: Cognitive Neuroscience Evidence from Pragmatic Inference, Vocal Communication and Individual Differences

Abstract: Successful social communication not only relies on understanding “what is said”, but is also about developing critical cognitive abilities to effectively decode “what is not said” and “how a speaker says”. Inferential ability and understanding what speaker intends in social contexts are vital for learning and adaptation.

In this talk, I will present my on-going studies and elaborate how EEGs/ERPs and other non-invasive cognitive neuroscience methods are used to understand language use and social cognition. I will highlight recent evidence showing how a speaker communicates a meaning (e.g. confidence, trustworthiness) and emotion in the vocal and verbal cues, and the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying how a listener decodes the speaker meaning. I will also demonstrate how social context (e.g. social status) facilitates the decoding of communicative intentions (such as over-/im-politeness).

I will show evidence on how social inference is shaped by culture and by listener’s sex and personal characteristics such as interpersonal sensitivity and trait anxiety. In particular, I will focus on how trait empathy plays a role in deriving pragmatic implicature and resolving the pragmatic failure/ambiguity. I’ll close my talk by proposing future directions of the cognitive neuroscience studies on language use in social communication.

Note: You are welcome to bring your lunch.

Date: Feb. 9, 2017:  1pm – 2:30pm Dunton Tower 2203

Speaker: Dr. Laura Batterink, Brain Behavior and Cognition: Department of Psychology Northwestern University

Title: Contributions to language from implicit and explicit memory


A fundamental distinction in human cognition is between implicit cognitive mechanisms, which operate outside of conscious awareness, and explicit cognitive mechanisms, which require awareness in their operation.

In this talk, I will address how these two fundamentally different mechanisms contribute to language. By primarily drawing on EEG/ERP evidence, I will show that some but not all aspects of language: (1) are processed outside of awareness; (2) can be acquired by adult second language learners unintentionally and implicitly; and (3) are influenced and enhanced by memory processes occurring during sleep.

Taken together, these results show that many of the mechanisms that support language processing and acquisition—as well as learning more generally—operate “beneath the surface” and outside of our conscious awareness.

This research has important implications for understanding why language acquisition and many other types of learning become so much more effortful later in life. Given that some types of learning may occur unintentionally or without focused attention, a related goal is to identify optimal learning conditions for language, particularly for adult non-native learners.

Note: You are welcome to bring your lunch.

Date: December 8, 2016 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. Dunton Tower 2203

Speaker: Annemarie Wolff, Royal Ottawa Hospital, Mind, Brain, Imaging, and Neuroethics

Title: Event related potential and neural dynamics of consequentialist moral decision-making


A moral dilemma occurs when only one action is possible to resolve a situation, however sound moral reasons support each of the possible actions. Since 2000, neuroimaging studies have produced much data on the neural processing associated with moral judgements, along with disagreement about their interpretation. Focusing on two contrasting forms of moral reasoning – consequentialism and deontology – these studies have investigated generally the mental states involved in behavioural interactions between people in a moral context. The majority of this neuroimaging literature is composed of fMRI imaging which is favourable for it high spatial resolution.

Recently, however, some researchers have embarked on investigating the temporal dynamics of moral reasoning. This study will examine this in the context of consequentialist moral decision-making using electroencephalography (EEG). Data from 36 neurotypical participants were analysed – Event Related Potentials (ERPs) and changes in the electrical power in various frequency bands were examined. It was found that there was a significant difference in middle and late ERP components between the control condition and the moral condition (α = 0.05, False Discovery Rate correction) in all but one stimulus. Behavioural data showed significant differences in response reaction times between control and moral conditions as well, in addition to differences between stimuli within each condition. These results show significant differences in brain pattern activations in consequentialist moral dilemmas between scenarios in which participants responded YES to the presented moral dilemma and when they responded NO. These results provide new knowledge in this specific moral dilemma, in particular related to the threshold of participants own moral decisions.

Note: You are welcome to bring your lunch.


Date: December 1, 2016 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. Dunton Tower 2203

Speaker: Dr. Jim Davies, Carleton University

Title: Learning: A definition for Cognitive Science

Abstract: What is learning? In this talk Jim Davies will describe different varieties of learning at different levels of analysis and suggest a definition of learning, informed by cognitive science and findings from other disciplines.

Bio: Jim Davies is an associate professor in the Institute of Cognitive Science at Carleton University. Director of the Science of Imagination Laboratory, he explores processes of visualization in humans and machines and specializes in artificial intelligence, imagination, artistic compellent and creativity. His work has shown how people use visual thinking to solve problems, and how they visualize imagined situations and worlds. In his spare time, he is a published poet, an internationally-produced playwright, and a professional painter, calligrapher, and swing dancer.

Note: You are welcome to bring your lunch.

Nov. 24/16: No Colloquia due to an ICS Departmental Meeting.


Nov. 17/16: No Colloquia this date


Nov. 3/16: No Colloquia this date


Oct. 20/16: No Colloquia this date


Oct. 13/16: No Colloquia this date


Oct. 6/16: No Colloquia due to an ICS Committee Meeting


Sept. 22/16: No Colloquia due to an ICS Departmental Meeting.