Cerebral correlates of language production in healthy aging
This research project aims to understand how cognitive mechanisms and brain networks of language restructure to cope with the effect of age during normal aging. We are primarily interested in the abilities of older adults to produce language, especially sentences. We know that with increasing age, one encounters more and more frequent difficulties in word retrieval, a phenomenon known as "word on the tip of the tongue". In our previous work, we have shown the strategies used by older people to maintain good performance and to compensate for age-induced weaknesses in producing isolated words.
We have integrated our results in the form of a neurocognitive model, the LARA model (Lexical Access and Retrieval in Aging). The strength of this model is that it includes so-called multimodal data, i.e., data that reflect both the behavioral performance, cognitive skills, and brain language characteristics of the participants as they produce words. For this, we use multidisciplinary methods that allow us to measure these different parameters. In the LANGUAGING project, we continue our work, this time focusing on a more elaborate level of language production, that of sentence production. The approach will again be multidisciplinary, in order to obtain the different parameters or biomarkers, with, in addition, the use of artificial intelligence methods which will allow us to achieve a more complex multimodal integration of our data. We hope to set up a model similar to LARA, but for the production of the sentence during aging, which we will call SEPA (Sentence Production in Aging). Some originalities characterize our project: to measure brain characteristics, we will use magnetoencephalography (MEG) which will allow us not only to identify the brain networks specific to the sentence but also, the connectivity (the interactions) between the different regions of these networks.
The LANGUAGING project has both theoretical implications for a better understanding of the mechanisms of language aging, and clinical implications for the future development of methods for language remediation and for preserving language skills in the elderly as much as possible. Moreover, the societal impact is obvious, given the increase in life expectancy in developed countries, with an increased risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases. Understanding cognition and the brain during normal aging is a first step toward finding solutions for the prevention and remediation of pathological aging disorders.