Multilingualism Research Forum/Flerspråklighetsforum: The neural basis of simultaneous interpreting – a window on multilingual language control

Alexis Hervais-Adelman (Assistant Professor, University of Zurich) will discuss the neural basis of simultaneous interpreting.


Alexis Hervais-Adelman smiling and wearing glasses and a black shirt
Alexis Hervais-Adelman
Simultaneous interpreting (SI) has been characterised as form of extreme (multi)language control. In order to successfully and continuously reproduce an incoming message in a different language, an interpreter is obliged to make highly atypical use of their multiple languages – they must maintain two of them concurrently active in order to be able to both comprehend one and produce the other. Most multilingual communication situations do not call for such ongoing access to more than one language. Neuroimaging of SI therefore has the potential to provide a unique window onto the neural substrates of multilingual control.
Alexis Hervais-Adelman will summarise the limited existing data on neuroimaging of SI, including longitudinal structural and functional findings in trainee interpreters. fMRI studies have shown that simultaneous interpreting engages a network of brain regions encompassing those implicated in speech perception and production, language switching, self-monitoring, and selection. Structural imaging studies have been carried out that also indicate modifications to a similar set of structures. Alexis Hervais-Adelman will present a conceptual cognitive framework for SI based on existing models of multilingual control and will propose future avenues of research that may prove fruitful for SI studies and for investigations of the neurobiology of multilingualism more generally.


Alexis Hervais-Adelman is Assistant Professor of Neurolinguistics in the Psychology Department at the University of Zurich, where he leads a team focused on exploring the neural basis of language using non-invasive imaging methods such as functional MRI and magneto- and electro-encephalography. His over-arching research interest is setting the neural basis of language into the context of other cognitive processes. He holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge and has previously worked as a research associate at the Centre for the Neural Basis of Hearing at the University of Cambridge, the Brain and Language Lab at the University of Geneva, and in the Neurobiology of Language group at The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics (The Netherlands). He has conducted several neuroimaging investigations into the cerebral basis of simultaneous interpreting as a model system for extreme multilingual control, and highlighted the relationships between linguistic and domain general cognitive networks in executing challenging language behaviours.


Selected Publications

Hervais-Adelman, A., & Babcock, L. (2019). The neurobiology of simultaneous interpreting: Where extreme language control and cognitive control intersect. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 23(4), 740-751. doi:10.1017/s1366728919000324

Hervais-Adelman, A., Moser-Mercer, B., & Golestani, N. (2015). Brain functional plasticity associated with the emergence of expertise in extreme language control. Neuroimage, 114, 264-274. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.03.072

Hervais-Adelman, A., Moser-Mercer, B., Michel, C. M., & Golestani, N. (2015). fMRI of Simultaneous Interpretation Reveals the Neural Basis of Extreme Language Control. Cereb Cortex, 25(12), 4727-4739. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhu158

Hervais-Adelman, A., Moser-Mercer, B., Murray, M. M., & Golestani, N. (2017). Cortical thickness increases after simultaneous interpretation training. Neuropsychologia, 98, 212-219. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2017.01.008

Published May 30, 2022 4:08 PM - Last modified May 30, 2022 4:10 PM