Neurosciences cognitives

C. Neurosciences cognitives

The Cognitive Neuroscience axis of the Language and Communication projects funded by the University of Geneva will have as overarching theme to identify lower to higher level perceptual and cognitive processes ranging from audition to executive control, in expertise, normal functioning and dysfunction. The complementary and collaborative projects will serve to characterise domains of processing which are enhanced by training in linguistic and non-linguistic domains, and which are disrupted in disorders such as dyslexia, with the goal of gaining a better understanding of transferable benefits, both in the context of expertise-induced enhanced performance and in the context of repair and intervention strategies for dyslexia.

Cognitive bases and repair of Dyslexia
(Anne-Lise Giraud, Pascal Zesiger, Marina Laganaro, Delphine Jochaut, Narly Golestani, Irene Altarelli)

In literate societies, reading skills are a necessary condition to scholastic and academic achievement and professional integration. There is however a large interindividual variability in adult reading skills, and an even broader dispersion during early learning stages. There is currently a consensus that dyslexia might follow from a deficit in speech sound processing. It is unclear however whether it is speech processing, speech representations  or the access to these representations that poses problem during reading. The purpose of our project is to gather a task force to address the neural and cognitive impairments in dyslexia and use the findings to devise repair strategies. The project encompasses actions at the level of basic research (behavioural and event-related potentials, Zesiger & Laganaro, FNS Project 100014_149595), neurophysiology, computational neuroscience  and intervention (medical and educational). It will be conducted in collaboration with the ADSR (Association Dyslexie Suisse Romande), ensuring direct impact of our research program on the dyslexia population. We will use the Language and Communication program of the UNIGE to finance a post-doctoral researcher for two years, who will help us put together a Sinergia SNF grant application on dyslexia and start acquiring preliminary data. The planned grant proposal will revolve around the four following scientific goals:

  • Searching for anomalies of the temporal format of phonological representations (Giraud, Faculty of Medecine).
  • Searching for anomalies of access to linguistic representations using rapid automatized naming (Zesiger, Laganaro, FPSE).
  • Searching for structural brain anomalies in dyslexia (cortical thickness, myelination of auditory cortex, cross-regional connectivity, Altarelli, FPSE).
  • Developing rehabilitation methods based on neurofeedback (Giraud, Faculty of Medecine).

Language and cognitive skills : a unique perspective from expert population
(Narly Golestani, Daphne Bavelier, Barbara Moser-Mercer, Alexis Hervais-Adelman, Anne-Lise Giraud, Irene Altarelli)

The human brain is remarkably plastic, reflecting our great capacity to learn. Yet, a crucial issue in learning research remains, as many studies show that training benefits rarely extend beyond the trained task. Interestingly, a few training regimens, including action video game play, multilingualism and simultaneous interpretation have been suggested to effectively foster transferable benefits, in particular in the executive and attentional domains.

In the present project, we will:

  1. Further characterize executive and attentional skills in the three aforementioned expert populations, using both behavioural and brain imaging approaches. Further, we will extend some of these questions to the clinical domain, by testing individuals with dyslexia.
  2. Building on recent work arguing for the importance of executive functions in learning, we will evaluate the link between these skills, or components of these skills, and language learning abilities, in the same three expert populations. To this end, we will investigate statistical language learning, an important mechanism during the acquisition of the phonotactic rules of a new language.

The true interdisciplinary nature of the project will be a clear strength, as it will allow us to benefit from diverse areas of competence (namely gamers and attentional control: Bavelier and Altarelli, multilingualism/simultaneous interpretation and cognitive control during speech: Moser-Mercer, Golestani and Hervais-Adelman). By establishing the relationships between cognitive skills and learning, we hope we will contribute to the understanding of the determinants of language learning, an issue of fundamental importance.


La production des noms et la métropolisation contemporaine (F. Giraut)
(Prof. F. Giraut avec Prof. G. Di Marzo, Prof, S. Cattacin, Prof. T. Tanquerel, Prof. M. Lieber, Dr. R. Crivelli, Dr. E. Sohier, L. Destrem)

Le projet s’inscrit dans un courant de Toponymie critique qui travaille les nouvelles dénominations de lieux sous l’angle de leur contribution à la  construction d’un paysage métropolitain constitutif d’un dispositif spectaculaire. Celui-ci configure les espaces du quotidien ainsi que les hauts lieux de la ville contemporaine.  Le projet propose ainsi de prendre au sérieux l’ensemble des dénominations et inscriptions toponymiques qui constituent le paysage de la ville en extension : noms des nouvelles voies proposées par les communes après délibération et validation cantonale, usages de contre-toponymies informelles (toponymie vernaculaire), mises en ligne de données sur les noms de lieux, référents spatiaux du Big data en constitution (bases de données sur les déplacements et les communications), espace des noms des marques et des compagnies dans les zones commerciales et d’activité, noms des domaines résidentiels issus de la promotion immobilière...

La question toponymique qui apparait au cœur de la construction des espaces de vie du quotidien et de la formation de la valeur foncière, immobilière et marchande mérite d’être appréhendée sous différentes entrées. Pour cette phase préliminaire sous forme d'un séminaire et d'un cycle de conférences nous avons retenu cinq thèmes transdisciplinaires, liés et complémentaires :

  • Le cadre légal de la production toponymique, ses limites, ses débordements et ses contournements ;
  • Les usages d’une contre ou para-toponymie et les phénomènes d’identification liés ;
  • Les expériences collaboratives (wiki) de production et alimentation en ligne de bases de données et inventaires toponymiques, avec en filigrane la question de la patrimonialisation ;
  • La nature des traces toponymiques laissées dans le "Big data" par l’enregistrement des communications et des déplacements ;
  • La question du genre dans la production toponymique contemporaine entre rééquilibrage commémoratif et représentation genrée de l’espace.

Le projet prévoit la constitution d'un groupe de travail pluridisciplinaire couplé à l'organisation d'un cycle de conférences, il débouchera sur le montage et la soumission au FNS ou UE d'un projet de recherche dédié à la production des noms de la métropolisation contemporaine avec un travail spécifique sur la métropole lémanique.