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Towards Finding Practical Solutions to Socially Significant Healthcare Problems

Towards Finding Practical Solutions to Socially Significant Healthcare Problems

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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).

© HSE University

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.

Centre’s Goals

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.

See also:

Neural Prosthesis Uses Brain Activity to Decode Speech

Researchers from HSE University and the Moscow State University of Medicine and Dentistry have developed a machine learning model that can predict the word about to be uttered by a subject based on their neural activity recorded with a small set of minimally invasive electrodes. The paper 'Speech decoding from a small set of spatially segregated minimally invasive intracranial EEG electrodes with a compact and interpretable neural network' has been published in the Journal of Neural Engineering. The research was financed by a grant from the Russian Government as part of the 'Science and Universities' National Project.

HSE University-Developed Linguatest System Launched in Nizhny Novgorod

Linguatest, Russia’s first foreign-language certification system, has been launched in the Nizhny Novgorod region. The system was developed by specialists from HSE University in cooperation with the National Accreditation Agency and the Prosveshchenie group of companies, who are providing certification and publishing support for the project. Nizhny Novgorod is the first city after Moscow to offer testing under the system.

Corpus Callosum Found to Switch Off Right Hemisphere During Speech

A study by the HSE Centre for Language and Brain has confirmed the role of the corpus callosum in language lateralisation, ie the distribution of language processing functions between the brain's hemispheres. The authors came up with an innovative language task for their study subjects and applied advanced neuroimaging methods to the data collected. A paper on their findings has been published in PLoS ONE.  The research was financed by a grant from the Russian government as part of the 'Science and Universities' National Project.

Ketamine Found to Increase Brain Noise

An international team of researchers including Sofya Kulikova, Senior Research Fellow at the HSE University-Perm, found that ketamine, being an NMDA receptor inhibitor, increases the brain's background noise, causing higher entropy of incoming sensory signals and disrupting their transmission between the thalamus and the cortex. This finding may contribute to a better understanding of the causes of psychosis in schizophrenia. An article with the study’s findings has been published in the European Journal of Neuroscience.

Speech Register Switching Causes Brain to Struggle with Comprehension

According to researchers at the HSE Centre for Language and Brain, processing a word which is markedly different in style from the rest of the sentence uses the same brain mechanisms as making sense of a semantically incongruent word. These mechanisms reflect the brain’s efforts to process an unexpected term. The study findings have been published in the Journal of Neurolinguistics. The research was financed by a grant from the Russian Government as part of the 'Science and Universities' National Project.

Only Left Hemisphere Involved in Action Naming

An international team including researchers from the HSE Centre for Language and Brain and the HSE Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience have demonstrated the critical role of the left, but not the right, inferior frontal gyrus in action naming. The study findings are published in Brain Structure and Function.

Machine Learning Predicts Epileptogenic Activity from High-Frequency Oscillation Rates

In an innovative study, researchers from HSE University, RAN Institute of Linguistics, and the National Medical and Surgical Centre named after N.I. Pirogov measured and analysed high-frequency oscillations (HFO) in different regions of the brain. An automated detector predicted seizure outcomes based on HFO rates with an accuracy rate of 85%, and by applying machine learning, made it possible to distinguish between epileptogenic and non-epileptogenic HFO. The study’s findings are published in Frontiers in Human Neurosciences.

HSE Researchers Caused People to Behave Less Rationally by Suppressing Activity in Specific Parts of the Brain

Researchers at the HSE Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience have shown experimentally that magnetic stimulation of the prefrontal cortex of the brain causes test subjects to act less rationally, changing how they assess possible outcomes at the moment they make risky decisions. The scientists believe that the discovery will provide a better understanding of the mechanisms that give rise to gaming addiction. The results of the study were published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Brain Found to Simultaneously Process Linguistic and Extralinguistic Information

An international team of scientists from the UK, Spain, Denmark and Russia (including researchers from the HSE Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience) conducted an experiment demonstrating that people automatically integrate extralinguistic information into grammatical processing during verbal communication. The study findings were published in the Scientific Reports Journal.

Mathematicians and Practicing Surgeons to Fight Venous Diseases

One million people in Russia suffer from venous diseases. The ‘Intelligent data analysis for healthcare information systems’ Mirror Lab project brings together expertise in mathematics and medicine in order to better diagnose various conditions in phlebology. Project leader Vasilii Gromov talked to The HSE LooK about its achievements and prospects.