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.
A unique awake brain surgery has been carried out in Nizhny Novgorod with the participation of staff of the Centre for Language and Brain Studies. For the first time, neurolinguists in Nizhny Novgorod assisted in the removal of a brain tumour with mapping of a bilingual patient who is a native speaker of Tatar and Russian. The participants—Natalia Gronskaya, Director of the Centre for Language and Brain Studies, Alina Minnigulova, research assistant, and Lilia Mavlekhanova, invited expert and native speaker of Tatar—spoke about the specifics of the operation.
A team of researchers from Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (Leipzig) has discovered that the age-related decline in bilateral anti-phase movement is linked to differences in alpha and beta neural activity. Among the researchers was Vadim Nikulin, Leading Research Fellow of the Centre for Cognition & Decision Making at HSE University.
The Faculty of Management at HSE Nizhny Novgorod plays an important role in transforming the city and the region, as well as in the development of its entrepreneurial ecosystem - thanks to its faculty, who engage in relevant research; its students and educational programmes that include social projects, as well as international conferences, which bring together local and international professionals to share knowledge and best practices. At the same time, the provision of management education itself faces two main challenges– how to combine education and a research agenda, and how to align its academic curriculum with market demands.
In September 2021, HSE University’s Faculty of Informatics, Mathematics and Computer Science at HSE Nizhny Novgorod launched the new applied degree programme Master of Computer Vision. Developed in collaboration with leading experts in the field of computer vision - Huawei, Itseez3D, Intel, Harman, and Xperience.ai – the programme is available on the Coursera platform and open to applicants from all over the world. Andrey Savchenko, Academic Supervisor of the new programme, talked to The HSE Look about how it came to be and what are its advantages.
HSE University's English-language newsletter, HSE LooK, has talked to Anna Blyakhman, Director of the HSE Nizhny Novgorod campus, about the history of the campus, its most noteworthy achievements, and future plans.
How can a small Russian research group become a world-famous scientific centre in less than a decade? A special edition of the Frontiers in Psychologyjournal devoted to increasing public awareness of neuroscience features an article about the HSE University Center for Language and Brain, including the successes and challenges of its early years.
The stronger the functional brain connections, the less inclined someone is to punish others for unfair behaviour. This conclusion was reached by HSE researchers following a neuroimaging experiment. Their paper ‘Wired to punish? Electroencephalographic study of the resting-state neuronal oscillations underlying third-party punishment’ was published in the journal Neuroscience.
Researchers from the HSE Centre for Cognition & Decision Making have developed a computational model of working memory and demonstrated the stabilizing effect of gamma oscillations, as well as the importance of fast interaction between the model components. The study results have the potential to become part of a theoretical basis for experiments on improving working memory functions with non-invasive brain stimulation. The study was published in Frontiers in Neural Circuits .
The Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience (ICN) at HSE University has recently added state-of-the-art laboratory equipment to its range of tools for studying brain function. The News Service visited the Institute to learn more about the uses of infrared lasers, optical tomography and a unique robotic arm, as well as why research into vascular tone is important, which parts of the brain can be stimulated to make people more generous, and how the Institute’s research can help treat diseases.
Researchers from HSE University and Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences have discovered how the theta rhythm of the brain and the gender differences in attitudes to risk are linked. In an article published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, the researchers addressed which processes can be explained by knowing this connection.