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Bi-literacy: Learning to read in L1 and in L2 (BILITERACY)
Start date: May 1, 2012, End date: Apr 30, 2017 PROJECT  FINISHED 

"Learning to read is probably one of the most exciting discoveries in our life. Using a longitudinal approach, the research proposed examines how the human brain responds to two major challenges: (a) the instantiation a complex cognitive function for which there is no genetic blueprint (learning to read in a first language, L1), and (b) the accommodation to new statistical regularities when learning to read in a second language (L2). The aim of the present research project is to identify the neural substrates of the reading process and its constituent cognitive components, with specific attention to individual differences and reading disabilities; as well as to investigate the relationship between specific cognitive functions and the changes in neural activity that take place in the course of learning to read in L1 and in L2. The project will employ a longitudinal design. We will recruit children before they learn to read in L1 and in L2 and track reading development with both cognitive and neuroimaging measures over 24 months. The findings from this project will provide a deeper understanding of (a) how general neurocognitive factors and language specific factors underlie individual differences – and reading disabilities– in reading acquisition in L1 and in L2; (b) how the neuro-cognitive circuitry changes and brain mechanisms synchronize while instantiating reading in L1 and in L2; (c) what the limitations and the extent of brain plasticity are in young readers. An interdisciplinary and multi-methodological approach is one of the keys to success of the present project, along with strong theory-driven investigation. By combining both we will generate breakthroughs to advance our understanding of how literacy in L1 and in L2 is acquired and mastered. The research proposed will also lay the foundations for more applied investigations of best practice in teaching reading in first and subsequent languages, and devising intervention methods for reading disabilities."
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