Alexis Hervais-Adelman, Ph.D

Extreme Language: Degraded Speech Perception and Multilingualism

Research Highlights

My recent work focuses on simultaneous interpretation as a means of gaining insights into the brain mechanisms of polyglot language control1. Using fMRI, we have shown that the brain structures implicated in the challenges of simultaneous interpretation are not limited to those involved in speech, but rather extend far beyond, into the domain of executive functions - handling an input stream in one language, converting it to and producing it in another, simultaneously, calls upon networks globally involved in inhibition and selection of tasks and actions, attentional control, and target-monitoring.

I am extending this in a longitudinal follow-up, examining the cerebral adaptations, both structural and functional2, that occur as a result of developing expertise in simultaneous interpretation, and the impact of these on other domains of cognition.

Ongoing Research

I am also particularly interested in the top-down cognitive mechanisms that allow us to comprehend and adjust to speech under acoustically challenging conditions3. The results of this work have indicated a role for articulatory-motor regions of the brain in restoring intelligibility to degraded speech signals.

When working, simultaneous interpreters are required to constantly process a speech signal that is masked by their own voice. I am examining the cognitive and perceptual adaptations that enable them to successfully do this, with so little apparent effort.