My current research interests are focused on speech production deficits in bilinguals speakers with neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer, Parkinson and Huntington) or following brain vascular diseases. Moreover, I am collaborating in a project aiming at looking at underlying mechanisms of bilingualism as cognitive reserve factor in age-related disease.
Some research questions and some results:
1. How non-linguistic deficits following brain damage impact the control of two languages?
Parkinson's disease affects the language control early and in some cases more than general-domain control, but not for all type of mechanisms (see the results in Cattaneo et al., 2015). Now we are investigating whether these deficits also extent to other language selection context.
2. Are semantic control mechanisms affected similarly the two languages in patients with access/representational deficits?
Our recent results (follow-up study) show that in early and proficient bilinguals with Alzheimer's disease the two languages decline over time at same rate, suggesting similar underlying organizational principles. Research is now devoted to see whether semantic control in bilingual patients with representational deficits (Semantic Dementia) may differentlially affected in the two languages.
3. In which way bilingualism may proctect against cognitive decline?
Preliminary results from our lab are suggesting that lifelong and active use of the two languages may delay the symptoms onset of Mild Cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease. The further step is to investigate which mechanisms, probably related to better executive funtioning, may enhance these benefits.
4. May episodic memory deficits end up with differential retrieval benefits for the two languages?