I am primarily interested in the neurocognition of multilingualism: how the brain of a multilingual person represents and processes his/her different languages, and how these languages interact and influence one another. I am interested in the changes that occur in the brain when we learn a new language, and how proficiency level (at different stages of learning or of forgetting languages) impacts how a language is processed in the brain. My PhD research focuses on the brain basis of a phenomenon called “first-language attrition” — a non-pathological decline of one’s first language, due to special circumstances (such as immigration) that lead the individual to experience very reduced exposure to their native language, while highly-proficient in the second language they learned in adulthood and now use on a daily basis. This is an exciting new line of brain research that explores the “younger is better” question from a new perspective: if there is a critical-period for the brain to process a language like a native-speaker, we would expect to find that one’s first-language is robust and impermeable to loss, and that the language learned in adulthood cannot take over, even if it becomes the daily language. Interestingly, our studies show that this is not entirely the case! In addition to this main line of research, I am also interested in individual differences in language-learning, language development in children, as well as literacy (and dyslexia) in bilinguals. I would also love to explore the phenomenon of attrition in second-language learners — for example, what happens when you no longer practice a foreign language you knew very well? After my PhD, I would enjoy continuing to explore the possible parallels between language-acquisition and attrition: with increasing or decreasing proficiency-levels, do the stages of acquisition and attrition parallel each other, but in reverse? What are the factors that influence how “native-like” the brain seems when a multilingual speaker processes his/her respective languages?
To find out more about my PhD dissertation as well as other research projects I am currently involved in, see the Projects page.
Aside from my fascination with brain research on multilingualism, I am passionate about my hobbies: creative writing, travel and photography. My biggest dream is to publish novels and photography books, aside from being a scientist. I love reading about art history and architecture, cooking and wine, and about Italy. I love learning foreign languages and about different cultures, and experimenting with new foods and recipes. I also have synesthesia, which colors the way I see things in this world (forgive the pun!). Lastly, I really believe that connections with people are what matter most in this life, and I try my best to develop and maintain lasting relationships with friends or colleagues, around the world. I truly value kindness and openness – in academia and in life in general.
To find out more about me, and about my personal experiences as a PhD student in Montreal, check out the Grad Life Blog.