Abstract

The cognitive advantages in bilinguals have been much studied the last decade by using executive and inhibitory tasks (e.g. Simon task) and applying cross-sectional designs. Few studies have however, examined this relationship across time in older adults.  By using the Betula Prospective Cohort Study of aging, memory, and health three studies have confirmed the trajectories of the bilingual benefits on episodic memory recall, letter fluency, divided attention and switching efficiency between categories in letter fluency. All studies included late bilinguals speaking Swedish as first language, who learnt their second language (mostly English) through the formal educational system in Sweden and all were tested in their mother tongue. The participants were middle aged and older, and education, gender, age and intelligence were controlled for in one study (Ljungberg et al., 2013) while in the other two matched groups were applied. A few recent studies argue there is a protective effect of bilingualism on the development of dementia, this possible relationship was tested longitudinally in a fourth study but no beneficial effects were detected. The findings obtained in these studies have raised the question whether the bilingual memory advantages are a matter of “use it, or lose it”.

During this talk I will also present some preliminary results drawn from the same database indicating the benefits of speaking more than two languages across time and if there is time I will talk briefly about our new ongoing longitudinal data collection.

Jessica Körning Ljungberg 

Jessica Körning Ljungberg completed her Ph.D. (Dr Med Sci) at the department of public health and clinical medicine, occupational medicine at Umeå University in 2006. After that she worked as a research fellow with Prof Dylan Jones at the school of psychology at Cardiff University (UK) for one year. She has been working as a guest researcher at the school of psychology at the University of the Balearic Islands in Spain, and spent two years as an assistant professor at the Department of Human Work Science, division of Engineering Psychology at Luleå University of Technology in Luleå. From 2010 until today she has been working at the Department of Psychology at Umeå University in Umeå, two years as a post‑doc and today she holds a position as a senior lecturer. During 2011 she also received her Associate Professorship at the same department.

Her research interests spans across many different fields including auditory alarms in applied settings (e.g., cockpit in airplanes), to investigating the characteristics of auditory and tactile stimuli that mediate attention capture in cognitive tasks (e.g., short-term memory tasks, sustained attention tasks). She has been approved larger grants from both VR and Forte (a junior researcher grant) and in 2014 she received a large grant from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg foundation and was included in their career program for younger research leaders (a Wallenberg Academy Fellowship). The last grant enabled her to build her own research group, expand her research field focusing on the study of cognitive aging, looking at the effect of bilingualism on cognitive performance.