The U.S. National Institute on Aging (NIA) has announced funding for research proposals on bilingualism and its impact on cognitive reserve and resilience in both healthy aging and in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Alzheimer’s disease-related dementias (ADRD). Research on bilingualism and its effects on behavior and the brain have been studied in the past, but it has been inconsistent in considering sociocultural factors. These include socioeconomic status, education, recency of immigration, age of second language acquisition, aspects of second language use (e.g., reading, speaking, fluency), and the intersection of these factors.
For this reason, additional research on the impact of bilingualism and its impact on the brain is needed. NIA identified topics for research proposals which include, but are not limited to:
- Studies that leverage two or more languages, including nonverbal means of communication (e.g., American Sign Language)
- Approaches to better assess and contextualize the environmental and sociocultural factors that complicate the study of bilingualism on cognitive reserve and resilience to AD/ADRD
- Approaches that can leverage ongoing longitudinal studies of aging to examine the mechanisms and effects of bilingualism on age-related cognitive decline and AD/ADRD
- Aspects of second language learning (e.g., proficiency, duration, age of exposure, literacy, language characteristics) that are critical for hypothesized effects on cognitive reserve and resilience to AD/ADRD
- Multimodal neuroscience approaches that can clarify the neural mechanisms of learning a second language on the aging brain and relate these mechanisms to other drivers of cognitive reserve and resilience to AD/ADRD
- Computational modeling approaches that can test and refine potential theories of bilingual effects on cognitive reserve and resilience to AD/ADRD
- Approaches that examine structural and functional connectivity changes in the aging bilingual brain and its effects on cognitive reserve and resilience to AD/ADRD
- Approaches that examine possible epigenetic changes induced by second language learning that may drive cognitive reserve and resilience to AD/ADRD
Projects should be hypothesis-driven to build theoretical frameworks for the field.
Letters of submission from interested applicants are due February 1, and full submissions are due March 3, 2022. NIA will fund 6 to 10 projects in the 2022-2023 year and will commit $6 million towards research.