Ellen Bialystok

Ellen Bialystok

York University, Canada
Ellen Bialystok

Ellen Bialystok is a Distinguished Research Professor of Psychology at York University and Associate Scientist at The Rotman Research Institute of Baycrest. She is an Officer of the Order of Canada and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Her research uses behavioral and neuroimaging methods to examine the effect of bilingualism on cognitive processes across the lifespan. Her discoveries include the identification of differences in the development of cognitive and language abilities for bilingual children, the use of different brain networks by monolingual and bilingual young adults performing cognitive tasks, and the postponement of symptoms of dementia in bilingual older adults. Her current studies are investigating the effects of bilingual education on children’s development and the cognitive and brain consequences of bilingualism in older adults.

Among her many awards are the Killam Prize for the Social Sciences (2010), York University President’s Research Award (2009), and the Donald T. Stuss Award for Research Excellence at the Baycrest Geriatric Centre (2005). In 2017 she was granted an honorary doctorate from the University of Oslo for her contributions to research.

Talk Information:

Bilingualism as a Source of Cognitive Reserve: Impact on Alzheimer's disease
March 4, 2023 | 9:00 AM

An emerging body of research has shown that lifelong bilingualism contributes to cognitive reserve. In studies with healthy older adults, bilinguals achieve the same level or better as monolinguals in various cognitive tasks, even when structural brain imaging shows more neural deterioration in grey and white matter for the bilinguals. In patient studies, bilinguals are diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment and dementia at an older age than monolinguals, and neuroimaging reveals again that the bilingual brains have sustained more neuropathology at the time symptoms become apparent and the diagnosis is made. Finally, the conversion from MCI to Alzheimer’s disease is faster for bilingual patients than monolinguals because the pathology is more advanced by the time it becomes apparent. These findings will be discussed and an explanation for how bilingualism contributes to these effects will be presented.

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