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Canadian brainpower at AAAS in Washington

This release is available in French.

Washington (February 17) Three leading Canadian language and speech experts will take centre stage in discussions on the latest developments in speech research at this year's annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C. (February 17-21).

Ellen Bialystok of York University has been a driving force in revealing the unique window that bilingualism opens on brain function. Her research disproves earlier claims of cognitive deficits among bilingual children, discovering, instead, that bilingual children and adults have distinct advantages over unilingual people, especially when performing non-language tasks. Her findings suggest that bilingualism provides lifelong advantages.

Janet F. Werker, of the University of British Columbia, focuses on how we acquire language, specifically on the first steps in infancy that launch the process of language acquisition. She was the first to show that infants begin life sensitive to the sound properties of all the world's languages and that listening experience serves to narrow their sensitivities to those used in their native language only. Her recent work includes studies of the perceptual processes that aid infants in acquiring two native languages and growing up bilingual.

University of Toronto's Luc De Nil discovered that stuttering is part of a generalized motor disorder that affects more than just speech. His research includes innovative non-verbal experiments, such as having adults and children master new and unusual finger-tapping sequences. Such exercises allow him to determine the brain processes involved and the developmental progression of this puzzling disorder over time.

Bialystok and Werker will share their findings at the session entitled Crossing Borders in Language Science: What Bilinguals Tell Us About Mind and Brain on Friday, February 18, from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Room 146A, Washington Convention Center.

De Nil will take part in the session From Freud to fMRI: Untangling the Mystery of Stuttering on Sunday, February 20, from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Room 146A, Washington Convention Center.

Both sessions will also be the subject of special AAAS news briefings in advance of the presentations. Newsroom participants should check their schedules for locations and times.


Contact: Arnet Sheppard
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council

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