Towards Finding Practical Solutions to Socially Significant Healthcare Problems
The Centre for Language and Brain in Nizhny Novgorod started operations in September 2020. Today, it is comprised of a team of linguists - teachers and students - who are researching the relations between speech and parts of the brain. The Director of the Centre, Natalya E. Gronskaya, spoke to the HSE Look about how the neuro-linguistic laboratory appeared in Nizhny Novgorod, as well as current tasks and prospects the Centre can offer the students and the region.
Natalya E. Gronskaya, Director of the Centre for Language and Brain Studies
The opening of the Centre at the Faculty of Humanities in HSE Nizhny Novgorod was possible thanks to the support of Olga Dragoy, the Director of the HSE Centre for Language and Brain in Moscow, who received a research grant from the Russian Science Foundation in 2020.
The staff in Nizhny Novgorod has been closely cooperating with the Moscow Centre for Language and Brain for several years. Empirical and scientific research between the Centre for Language and Brain in Moscow and linguists at HSE Nizhny Novgorod, as well as neurosurgeons from the Privolzhsky Research Medical University (PRMU), began, in the fall of 2017, to perform language testing during awake brain surgeries (for the removal of brain tumors). The new laboratory institutionalizes a research group that already was working out of Nizhny Novgorod, while also setting the foundation for the future formation of a distributed inter-campus Centre for Language and Brain.
Today, the Centre serves as a unique scientific structure in the region that carries out fundamental and applied tasks related to the cerebral basis of language. In addition to research activities, the Centre has an educational function and can serve as a base for programmes in neurolinguistics that are unique in Russia regions.
We have a combination of the resources and competencies of three major institutions (HSE Nizhny Novgorod, the Centre for Language and Brain in Moscow, and PRMU) with plans for further collaboration with other universities and clinical organizations in the region. The opening of the Centre at the Faculty of Humanities allows us to combine theoretical linguistics and applied context (awake surgeries, patients with speech impairments).
The Centre’s regional research agenda is oriented towards finding practical solutions to socially significant healthcare problems in the Nizhny Novgorod Region and the Volga Federal District - rehabilitation of patients with speech impairment - a study of speech disorders in the elderly and correction of speech disorders in children (including those with autistic spectrum disorders).
Our theoretical research will address what happens to the ‘tongue-brain’ connection after surgeries and injuries, cases of language delay and speech impairment in children, and whether it is possible to influence these processes.
This empirical research will include experimental activities (e.g., development and validation of various types of tests both for adults and children, mapping different parts of the brain during surgeries, collecting and processing Big Data, etc.), development of new methods for testing and the rehabilitation of patients with speech impairments, creation of alternative communication devices for adults and children with speech disorders.
The development of the Centre is line with the strategic goals of the HSE Nizhny Novgorod with respect to scientific/academic development, i.e., its development as an advanced regional research centre. We aim to create and develop a neuro-linguistic school in Nizhny Novgorod through the introduction of a specifically neuro-linguistic approach to the educational process at the Faculty of Humanities, as well as train and get HSE Nizhny Novgorod students involved in neuro-linguistic experiments in order to popularize the Centre’s work.
We also aim to transform our scientific results into replicated and demanded practical tools, e.g., the application of the findings from brain injury research in clinical and pedagogical practice (in children with speech disorders trying to learn foreign languages), as well as the further possible commercialization of these developments. Moreover, the multidisciplinary nature of neurolinguistics itself will contribute to research activities at HSE Nizhny Novgorod through bringing together researchers from the various branches of science.
We plan to expand the Centre’s activities to address speech disorders in children, develop and improve existing speech therapy programmes for adults and children with subsequent clinical testing and implementation in clinical practice.
HSE, the Pirogov National Medical and Surgical Centre, and the Centre for Speech Pathology and Neurorehabilitation of the Moscow Healthcare Department have signed an agreement on cooperation and the creation of a ‘neuro-consortium’ under the name ‘Transfer of Neurocognitive Technologies’. The new body will boost the development and implementation of advanced solutions in neurotechnology aimed at maintaining and improving people's health. The agreement was signed for five years, and the consortium is open to new participants.
'While it May Sound Futuristic, It Holds Great Promise': Olga Dragoy Shares Her Thoughts on Language Function Restoration and the Future of Neurotechnology
In the spring of 2023, the fifth strategic project of the Priority 2030 programme, 'Human Brain Resilience: Neurocognitive Technologies for Adaptation, Learning, Development and Rehabilitation in a Changing Environment,' was launched at HSE University. The strategic project brings together researchers from all campuses of HSE University. In her interview with the HSE News Service, Olga Dragoy, head of the strategic project and Director of the HSE Centre for Language and Brain, shares an overview of the advanced technologies neuroscientists are creating today, the underlying inspiration driving these efforts, and the operational dynamics of interdisciplinary applied projects.
HSE University in Nizhny recently hosted the 2nd Autumn Neuro-linguistic School ‘NeuroSciCom: Popularising Language and Brain Studies’ for scientists and students at the HSE Centre for Language and Brain Studies in Nizhny Novgorod. The school was held as part of the 'Human Brain Resilience: Neurocognitive Technologies for Adaptation, Learning, Development and Rehabilitation in a Changing Environment' Strategic Project of the Priority 2030 programme.
A team of researchers from HSE University and the Artificial Intelligence Research Institute (AIRI) have demonstrated the effectiveness of the PSIICOS method they had previously developed for non-invasive mapping the neural networks in the brain based on its electrical activity. Unlike other methods, it does not search for individual neuronal sources to be then combined into networks but instead looks directly for the functional networks of interconnected neuronal populations—and does so swiftly and accurately. The study findings have been published in NeuroImage.
Researchers from HSE University and the Artificial Intelligence Research Institute (AIRI) have successfully lowered the latency between a change in brain activity and the presentation of the corresponding neurofeedback signal by a factor of 50. The results were obtained by employing a neural network trained in low-latency filtering of brain activity signals from diverse individuals. This approach opens up new prospects for the treatment of attention deficit disorder and epilepsy. A paper with the study findings has been published in Journal of Neural Engineering.
Online Rhythmic Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Can Reveal the Precise Moment When Preferences Shift in the Human Brain
Cognitive dissonance is a complex and multifaceted psychological phenomenon that arises in challenging decision-making scenarios. Multiple regions of the brain participate in its occurrence, yet the neurodynamics of underlying cognitive mechanisms remain a subject of debate. Researchers from the HSE Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience have proposed the use of online transcranial magnetic stimulation applied to participants as they were actively engaged in tasks, to pinpoint the moment of cognitive dissonance resolution. Their findings have been published in a review paper in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
This year, more than 100 students from Russia and abroad took part in the 10th summer neurolinguistic school, ‘Eye-tracking in the Lab and Beyond’. The school is held annually by the HSE Center for Language and Brain. Leading experts spoke about advanced developments and research in the field of video-oculography.
New methods of brain mapping will make it easier to identify the cortex areas responsible for speech functions and to perform operations on the brain, as well as reduce the likelihood of damage to important areas. In addition, this will allow for more frequent use of non-invasive methods for restoring speech and other functions lost due to injuries and illnesses.
Researchers at HSE University and the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Molecular Biology have proposed investigating the response of the blood-brain barrier (BBB), the brain's natural filter that becomes disrupted by the disease, to transcranial brain stimulation. Understanding how the BBB changes during stimulation can, in theory, enhance treatment by facilitating more effective delivery of medications to the brain in the early stages of the disease, and by providing therapeutic support for brain function in the latter stages. The study has been published in Communications Biology.
Neuroscientists from HSE University have criticized the famous studies that question the free will of our decisions. You can’t shift responsibility for your actions to the brain. The results of the new work were published in the Neuropsychologia journal.