Annual Report 2017
Centre for Advanced Research in Experimental and Applied Linguistics
ARiEAL brings together a diverse yet cohesive collection of researchers with expertise in linguistics and languages, relevant clinical conditions, and key neurophysiological, neuroimaging, and behavioural measures in order to advance understanding of the neural, behavioural and social foundations of human communication. Highlighted below are the 2017 research activities from each laboratory led by ARiEAL researchers.
- Language, Memory and Brain Lab
- MELD Program & Bilingualism Lab
- Teaching & Learning Lab
- Language, Reading and Cognitive Neuroscience Lab
- The Syntax Lab
- The Reading Lab
- Imaging Research Centre
- The Phonetics Lab
- The Reilly Lab
- The Turkstra Lab
- The Language and Working Memory Lab
- The mTBI Research Program
- The Performance Science Lab
Language, Memory and Brain Lab
The Language, Memory and Brain (LMB) Lab, co-directed by Drs. John Connolly & Elisabet Service, conducts research using brain recording/imaging and behavioural measures to investigate a range of topics including basic research on language learning, spoken word processing, and working memory and related cognitive processes. Much of this work is then applied in investigations of problem reading including dyslexia as well as studies of brain injury and disorders of consciousness. Dr. Connolly focuses primarily on the neuroscience of cognition with applications to assessment of clinical populations, while Dr. Service’s research focuses on cognitive aspects of processing, acquisition and impairments of language. In 2017, two students, Michael Greencorn and Fareeha Rana, from the LMB Lab successfully completed their master’s degrees, and Anni Nora (co-supervised by Dr. Riitta Salmelin of Aalto University, Finland, and Dr. E. Service) as well as Narges Armanfard (supervised by Dr. James Reilly in collaboration with Dr. J. Connolly) completed their doctoral degrees. The LMB Lab’s collaboration with Dr. Noseworthy’s Imaging Research Centre and the Hamilton Spectator on concussion research with retired CFL players received media attention in 2017 with its findings of long-term brain changes linked to concussion. A four-part series on this study was then featured in Hamilton Spectator and the Toronto Star in September. This soon went viral and led to a range of interviews and coverage in a variety of news outlets. The coma project continues successfully and a Collaborative Health Research Projects (CHRP) grant application was made to support expansion of this work (funded in 2018). 2017 also saw the conclusion of a CIHR-funded project on child and youth concussion involving Drs. Connolly and Noseworthy and Prof. DeMatteo. Publications on the concussion research and disorders of consciousness that also involved other ARiEAL members appeared in PLoS ONE and Consciousness and Cognition in 2017 with other related papers accepted in IEEE Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics, and Clinical Neurophysiology. Moreover, Dr. Service received an interdisciplinary ARB grant with collaborator Dr. Catherine Connelly of the DeGroote School of Business, to study the effects of second language use on performance of work-like tasks. Dr. Service also continues as collaborator on a grant from the Academy of Finland (2016–2019) to study developmental language disorder in monolingual and bilingual children.
MELD Program & The MELD Bilingualism Lab
The McMaster English Language Development Diploma (MELD) program and the Bilingualism Lab are both directed by Dr. Anna Moro. MELD is intended for international students whose primary language is not English, but who wish to improve their English proficiency to succeed in an English-speaking higher education environment. The Bilingualism Lab investigates the underlying linguistic mechanisms of bilingual phenomena and focuses on second language acquisition. While MELD is not a research laboratory per se, interesting research on foreign language acquisition is being conducted on a regular basis with the support and guidance of the Bilingualism Lab. During September-October 2017, the MELD program began its testing schedule for the 2017-2018 cohort of students. At this time point 90 MELD students took part in an eye-tracking experiment in which participants silently read passages of varying complexity for comprehension as eye-movements were recorded. In addition, the MELD research team administered a battery of tests in which key component skills of reading (phonological processing, expressive and receptive vocabulary knowledge, reading comprehension) were measured. This testing procedure was administered to the same participants in March-April 2018 with the aim of tracking improvements of reading in English.
Teaching and Learning Lab
Dr. Catherine Anderson, a Teaching Professor in the Department of Linguistics and Languages, directs the Teaching & Learning Lab. The lab’s research, all of which is conducted in collaboration with undergraduate student partners, focuses on students’ experiences in a variety of undergraduate learning contexts. In 2017, student partners conducted research on Team-Based Learning and the Active Learning Classroom; students’ use of Open Educational Resources; and on accessibility in blended learning environments. The lab also participated in data-gathering and analysis for the cyclical review of the undergraduate programs in the department.
Language, Reading and Cognitive Neuroscience Lab
The Language, Reading and Cognitive Neuroscience Lab is directed by Dr. Marc Joanisse, and is housed at The University of Western Ontario’s Brain and Mind Institute. Dr. Joanisse’s Lab examines the cognitive and neural foundations of language and reading across the lifespan. This includes studying reading and language disorders in children, as well as language learning and processing in adults. A wide variety of experimental techniques including eye-tracking and event-related potentials measured with EEG are used, along with resting-state and task-based functional magnetic resonance imaging. In 2017, the lab focused on studying second language processing, with an emphasis on using neuroimaging to identify how age of acquiring a second language influences the neural markers of multilingualism. The lab is also undertaking a multi-year project in which they are examining the influence of reading remediation on brain markers of reading impairment in school-age children.
The Syntax Lab
The Syntax Lab is directed by Dr. Ivona Kučerová and it investigates syntactic structures, i.e., combinatorial properties, of natural languages from the general-cognition perspective. Both traditional fieldwork and experimental methods are used to collect data from cross-linguistically diverse languages, including indigenous languages of Canada, in order to identify and model universal and language-specific structural properties human languages have. The primary focus of the work currently done in the lab is on grammatical expressions of animacy. In 2017, the Syntax Lab was engaged in fieldwork on Mohawk (with Dr. Ryan DeCaire, University of Toronto and Dr. Alana Johns, University of Toronto) and Inuktitut (with Dr. Alana Johns). In addition, the research assistants collected a series of animacy data from a number of typologically unrelated languages (Tagalog, Libyan Arabic, Portuguese etc.). The data has been analyzed and has become a part of a database (to be made publicly available). The lab has participated in several experimental projects on sentential processing (with Dr. Diogo Almeida, NYU Abu Dhabi; Dr. Jon Sprouse, University of Connecticut; and Dr. Jan Chromy, Charles University). Finally, the lab has started a groundwork on creating a formal research collaboration with the communities of the Six Nations of the Grand River.
The Reading Lab
The Reading Lab is directed by Dr. Victor Kuperman and it targets a range of areas in psycholinguistics and corpus linguistics. More specifically, the Reading Lab focuses on the visuo-oculomotor and cognitive predictors of reading, processing of printed morphologically complex words, and effects of emotion on language production and comprehension. Eye-tracking is the key research paradigm at the Reading Lab. In 2017, the Reading Lab welcomed one new Master’s student (Davide Gentile), two new PhD students (Kelly Nisbet and Melda Coskun), and one new post-doctoral researcher (Dr. Aki Kyröläinen). Members of the Reading Lab had a productive 2017 presenting their work at various international conferences, including the European Conference for Eye Movements in Germany and the 10th Morphological Processing conference in Italy. Through Dr. Kuperman’s collaboration with “Words in the World (WoW)”, a SSHRC Partnered Research Training Initiative, the Reading Lab hosted many researchers from around the world to conduct workshops and/or present at the lecture series at ARiEAL.
Imaging Research Centre
Dr. Michael Noseworthy is the director of the Imaging Research Centre at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, which provides the research community with access to the cutting-edge imaging technology (including the GE Healthcare 3T Discovery MR7503T MRI scanner, and the Siemens Biograph-16 PET/CT scanner). In 2017 Dr. Noseworthy’s team developed novel imaging technology to assess various forms of diffuse brain injury. For example, concussion, chemobrain chemotherapy-induced brain damage and inflammatory-induced chronic fatigue syndrome. In addition, his team has built MRI hardware and written new pulse sequences for rapidly assessing the high energy phosphates (ATP, PCr, etc.) and intra/extracellular sodium levels within the brain. His team continues to develop novel technology for non-proton based MRI scanning.
The Phonetics Lab
The Phonetics Lab is directed by Dr. Daniel Pape, and it focuses on experimental phonetics, the link between speech production and speech perception, and the relationship between phonetics and neurolinguistics. More specifically the research at the Phonetics Lab examines the use and interplay of acoustic cues (i.e., cue-weighting) for (1) speech production and perception and (2) articulatory and biomechanical constraints in speech perception. In 2017 the study on perception of acoustic vs articuatory cue -weighting for Canadian English sibilant fricatives continued. The work on the acoustic properties of Polish retroflex fricatives was completed and a new study on the articulatory settings and their relationship to the produced speech sounds for Polish retroflexes was started. Also a new study on the cue-weighting of Canadian English stops was started.
The Reilly Lab
Dr. Reilly works at the interface of machine learning and signal processing applied to health related problems, particularly in neuroscience and psychiatry. Specific projects in this area are the development of improved machine learning algorithms, diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric illness, prognosis for coma outcome, and the assessment of infant motor movement relating to neurological deficit. In 2017, two of the students (Narges Armanfard and Phil Chrapka) from the Reilly Lab successfully completed their PhD. Together with Dr. Armanfard and other colleagues, Dr. Reilly also filed for the provisional patent for “Expert System for Automatic, Continuous Coma Patient Assessment and Outcome Prediction”. While continually being supported by an NSERC Discovery Grant in 2017, the Reilly Lab (with Dr Vickie Galea, PI) was also awarded a grant from the McMaster Interdisciplinary Fund.
The Turkstra Lab
Dr. Turkstra’s research focuses on links between cognitive function and social communication in individuals with acquired brain injury. She conducts both experimental and translational research on communication in adolescents and adults, and collaborates on development of practice standards to translate research findings into improved clinical practice. In 2017, undergraduate lab members Jonathan Jin, Noel Kim, and Emily MacIntyre analyzed transcripts of more than 50 typical adolescents in everyday conversations, with assistance from Kathleen Oliver, Graduate Student at the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour. They presented their results at the Hamilton Health Sciences Acquired Brain Injury conference and received a poster award.
The Language and Working Memory Lab
The Language and Working Memory Lab is directed by Dr. Lisa Archibald, and is part of the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders at The University of Western Ontario. The Language and Working Memory Lab focuses on investigating how language and memory processes interact in both children learning at a typical rate and those with learning disabilities. In 2017, work continued on the ongoing study examining early indicators of learning in kindergarten to grade 3 children. As well, the Language and Working Memory Lab began partnerships with educational speech-language pathologists in two school boards in Ontario to address questions related to their services for children with communication disorders. In related studies, the Language and Working Memory Lab completed investigations of adult word learning in a variety of contexts.
The mTBI Research Program
As a clinician scientist, Professor Carol DeMatteo has led many research studies in the area of childhood neurotrauma, specifically all severities of acquired brain injury including concussion. Professor DeMatteo is based at CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research, and in 2017, her team was wrapping up a prospective cohort study evaluating the effectiveness of Return to Activity and Return to School Guidelines for children and youth with concussion. Professor DeMatteo presented a number of the preliminary results of this study, both nationally and internationally, specifically measuring compliance with Return to Activity and Return to School guidelines at The 12th World Congress on Brain Injury, and The First International Conference on Pediatric Acquired Brain Injury. Concurrently, Professor DeMatteo also started the “Brain Smart – Let’s Play Safely!” community project investigating concussion management in organized youth minor sports and the Hamilton Wentworth Catholic District School Board in 2017. Professor DeMatteo also secured funding including private donor funding to complete a systematic review to update the evidence surrounding Return to Activity and Return to School as a part of the process of updating the CanChild Return to Activity and Return to School guidelines. Professor DeMatteo and team work in collaboration on a number of other mild traumatic brain injury projects with The Canadian Concussion Network: Vision for a Network of Centres of Excellence in Concussion, the Ontario Concussion Care Strategy, the Ontario Child Health Support Unit (OSCHU) and the Connect Kids to Care “One Voice”: Community of Practice Team in Concussion Management in Youth across Canada.
The Performance Science Lab
The Performance Science Lab is directed by Dr. Ranil Sonnadara, and it studies the way that people learn new skills. The Performance Science Lab is particularly interested in how information flow across the motor and perceptual systems changes with practice, and how feedback and assessment can be effectively implemented to support skill acquisition. The lab also studies ways to optimize performance in high-stakes environments, and how performance can be measured in meaningful ways. In 2017, the Surgical Foundations boot camp implemented by the Performance Science Lab completed a follow up OSCE (objective structured clinical examination) in June. The OSCE data was extremely promising, suggesting that at one-year into training, individuals who completed a boot camp performed significantly better than those who received traditional training (no boot camp) on a variety of focal skills. The Performance Science Lab was also interested in exploring the role of competence committees in competency-based training programs at McMaster. In 2017, the lab began with a survey of key stakeholders across 13 specialties at McMaster in order to understand initial perceptions and experiences of implementing competence committees locally. This work set great foundation in developing guidelines that will help the competency-based training programs with competence committee implementation and decision-making processes.
Produced & Designed by Brie Chauncey, Chia-Yu Lin, Kiera DiLeonardo and Brittany Gottvald. Many thanks to all ARiEAL members and trainees for their contribution to this report.
L.R. Wilson Hall, room 4020
1280 Main St. West
Hamilton, Ontario L8S 4K1, Canada
ARiEAL Research Centre
L.R. Wilson Hall, room 4020
1280 Main St. West
Hamilton, Ontario L8S 4K1, Canada
Phone: 905-525-9140 x21032