This project investigates the joint consequences of bilingualism and Alzheimer's disease (AD) for language and cognitive processing, with the goals of shaping psycholinguistic models of bilingualism (Aim 1), testing models of cognitive decline in AD (Aim 2), and characterizing unique aspects in the presentation of bilingual AD (Aim 3). Aging Spanish-English bilinguals are rapidly increasing in numbers in the USA, but almost no information is available on the profile of bilinguals with AD. Using three different models of bilingualism and three models of cognitive decline in AD, we derive specific predictions for the pattern of dual-language decline in bilinguals with AD for several domains (single word production and comprehension, verbal fluency, language switching, cross-language intrusion errors, translation recognition, and management of dual-language activation in sentence reading). Assuming that bilinguals cannot shut a language off, we test the effects of dual-language activation implicitly and explicitly, and examine effects that may be unique to bilinguals with AD (e.g., integrated presentation of language and control deficits, enhanced effects of the option to use either language, reduced cognate and false-friend effects). We hypothesize that AD primarily affects semantic storage in initial stages of the disease and that the dominant language will be more sensitive to such changes. However, we propose that retrieval deficits and language control problems are also present in bilingual AD, and that these deficits will affect the nondominant language with disease progression and in tasks that maximize interference between languages. In each study we consider if the results generalize to early vs. late bilinguals, and unbalanced vs. balanced bilinguals, and the implications of differences across bilingual types. The proposed studies will constrain models of bilingualism and cognitive decline in AD, will reveal the role of control in language processing, and will determine the typical presentation of bilingual AD while also identifying the conditions that allow bilinguals with AD to communicate as fluently as possible.

Public Health Relevance

Elderly Spanish-English bilinguals are rapidly increasing in numbers, and are at increased risk for developing Alzheimer's disease (AD), yet almost nothing is known about the joint consequences of bilingualism and AD for language and cognitive processing. The current proposal proposes to begin characterizing language deficits in bilingual AD. The proposed studies will provide important information about the presentation and progression of language impairments in bilinguals with AD, and more generally will increase our understanding of bilingualism and cognitive decline in AD.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Research Project (R01)
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Study Section
Language and Communication Study Section (LCOM)
Program Officer
Cooper, Judith
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University of California San Diego
Schools of Medicine
La Jolla
United States
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Gollan, Tamar H; Goldrick, Matthew (2018) A switch is not a switch: Syntactically-driven bilingual language control. J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn 44:143-156
Segal, Dorit; Gollan, Tamar H (2018) What's left for balanced bilinguals? Language proficiency and item familiarity affect left-hemisphere specialization in metaphor processing. Neuropsychology 32:866-879
Zlatar, Zvinka Z; Muniz, Martha C; Espinoza, Sarah G et al. (2018) Subjective Cognitive Decline, Objective Cognition, and Depression in Older Hispanics Screened for Memory Impairment. J Alzheimers Dis 63:949-956
Segal, Dorit; Stasenko, Alena; Gollan, Tamar H (2018) More evidence that a switch is not (always) a switch: Binning bilinguals reveals dissociations between task and language switching. J Exp Psychol Gen :
Gollan, Tamar H; Goldrick, Matthew (2018) Aging deficits in naturalistic speech production and monitoring revealed through reading aloud. Psychol Aging :
Kleinman, Daniel; Gollan, Tamar H (2018) Inhibition accumulates over time at multiple processing levels in bilingual language control. Cognition 173:115-132
Gollan, Tamar H; Stasenko, Alena; Li, Chuchu et al. (2017) Bilingual language intrusions and other speech errors in Alzheimer's disease. Brain Cogn 118:27-44
Stasenko, Alena; Matt, Georg E; Gollan, Tamar H (2017) A relative bilingual advantage in switching with preparation: Nuanced explorations of the proposed association between bilingualism and task switching. J Exp Psychol Gen 146:1527-1550
Ivanova, Iva; Wardlow, Liane; Warker, Jill et al. (2017) The effect of anomalous utterances on language production. Mem Cognit 45:308-319
Ivanova, Iva; Branigan, Holly P; McLean, Janet F et al. (2017) Do you what I say? People reconstruct the syntax of anomalous utterances. Lang Cogn Neurosci 32:175-189

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