UiO Honorary doctor 2017: Ellen Bialystok

Ellen Bialystok is a new honorary doctor at the University of Oslo and will hold a lecture entitled Lifelong Bilingualism: Reshaping Mind and Brain. The lecture is open to everyone. Welcome! 

September 1, 2017, the University of Oslo will award 16 new candidates with the degree of doctor of honoris causa, honorary doctorates.

Among them is cognitive neuroscientist Ellen Bialystok. 

About Ellen Bialystok

Ellen Bialystok is Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at York University, Canada. Most of her research has focused on the effect of bilingualism on children’s language and cognitive development. She has also conducted studies on younger and older adults, as well as patients, and her research has found that lifelong bilingualism protects older adults from cognitive decline with aging.

At the Department of Psychology at York University, she is Director of the cognitive neuroscience laboratory The Lifespan Cognition and Development Lab, where the researchers use electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology to investigate the neural underpinnings of cognition in individuals with diverse language backgrounds and determine the mechanism by which those effects take place.

Professor Bialystok is a highly reputable scholar and a world-renowned authority in her field of research. She was named an Officer of the Order of Canada for her contributions to the understanding of bilingualism and for opening up new avenues of research in the field. 

Lifelong Bilingualism: Reshaping Mind and Brain

All our experiences contribute to the way our minds and brains develop, but intense experiences have a special role in shaping our cognitive systems. As humans, no experience is more intense or pervasive than our use of language, so a lifetime of learning and using (at least) two languages has the potential to leave a profound mark on human cognition.

A large body of research conducted with people at all stages in the lifespan, from infancy to old age, shows that the experience of being actively bilingual reshapes the mind and brain.

Beginning with infants exposed to two languages at home and ending with older adults coping with dementia and neurodegenerative disease, cognitive and brain outcomes are different for monolinguals and bilinguals.

These differences are generally in the direction of more precocious development for bilingual children and more protection against cognitive decline for bilingual older adults.

This talk will review the evidence from these studies and propose an explanation for how exposure to and use of two languages leads to these cognitive and brain consequences.


The talk will be followed by a Q&A session (ca 10:00-10:30).

Lectures by the honorary doctors at the Faculty of Humanities

Professor Bialystok's lecture will be followed by a lecture by Professor Prasendjit Duara, Duke University, on Sustainability and the Crisis of Transcendence: The Long View from Asia. One of the foremost international researchers in environmental humanities, Professor Duara is the second honorary doctor of the Faculty of Humanities in 2017.

Published June 27, 2017 3:48 PM - Last modified Aug. 29, 2017 12:24 PM