E-nnovation Germany | The Newsletter for the German Center for Research and Innovation New York

Issue 2, May 2010
bulletSprechen Sie Deutsch? Do you speak English? Or both?
bulletGCRI Science Dinner on the Bilingual Brain
bulletInterview: Talking about the Bilingual Brain
bulletFacial Expressions: The Language of Infancy
bulletGerman Innovation of the Month
Sprechen Sie Deutsch? Do you speak English? Or both?
In today's globalized world, multilingualism is common, relevant, and to many, a necessary part of daily life. Research into the neurobiology of bilingualism has shown that people who speak more than one language fluently have an advantage over those who are monolingual - and not just in terms of communication skills. Scientists have found that regardless of the age of acquisition, bilingual people have increased brain density, which leads to improved skills and abilities. People who became bilingual early in life often show better concentration and are less prone to distractions. They also may be better protected against dementia and other age-related cognitive decline. For further reading, please click here.
In this edition, we are focusing on bilingualism, language, and noise absorption. At the upcoming GCRI science dinner on June 3,  Professors Jürgen Meisel and Michael Ullman will discuss the bilingual brain and second language acquisition. Dr. Tricia Striano's new findings introduce the "language" of infancy through facial expressions, and the German Innovation of the Month absorbs the sound effects of too much communication and background noise in the office. To learn more about this or future events at the GCRI, please contact us - in English or in German - at info@germaninnovation.org. We look forward to hearing from you and to seeing you at one of our events!

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Science Dinner on the Bilingual Brain
Is it possible for adults learning a second language to develop the same near-native grammatical skills as children who are exposed to more than one language from birth? On June 3, at a GCRI science dinner at the German House Restaurant, Professors Jürgen Meisel and Michael Ullman will discuss the bilingual brain, second language acquisition, and the role of memory systems in the brain as they relate to first and second language acquirement.
The title of Professor Meisel's talk is "Simultaneous and Successive Acquisition of Bilingualism: Age of Onset of Acquisition in Early Childhood." He is Professor emeritus of Romance Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Calgary.
Professor Ullman's research examines brain bases of first and second language, and how factors such as gender, handedness, and genetic variability affect the brain bases of language and memory. The title of his talk is "The Role of Memory Brain Systems in First and Second Language; or, What Rats Can Tell Us About Language." He teaches in the Department of Neuroscience, with secondary appointments in the Departments of Neurology, Linguistics and Psychology at Georgetown University.
To learn more about the speakers and to read the abstracts of their presentations, click here.

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Interview: Talking about the Bilingual Brain
In this month's interview, the speakers at our June 3 science dinner,  Professors Jürgen M. Meisel and Michael Ullman, share their insights on the physiological differences between learning a second language in youth and adulthood. In addition, Professor Meisel also discusses the importance of active engagement with children while they are learning a second language.
To read the interview, click here »

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Facial Expressions: The Language of Infancy
Although newborn infants are born without the ability to speak, they are sensitive to social cues that foster language learning and communication. Using brain measures known as Event Related Potentials, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences discovered how the infant brain responds to others' facial expressions and eye contact. Adult social cues help young infants direct attention to the world. These findings will be useful in providing interventions for communicative disorders such as autism. Knowledge about typical infant social cognition in the first year is important in fostering communication and language.  The research paper, by authors Hoehl & Striano, Infants' Neural Processing of Positive Emotion and Eye Gaze, was published in the February 2010 edition of Social Neuroscience. For additional information about the practical application of this research, click here.

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Silence Solution Module

German Innovation of the Month:
Peace and Quiet in the Office

High noise levels, which are common in many work environments, are known to create stress, interfere with concentration, and reduce productivity. In close cooperation with Bayer MaterialScience, the Cologne-based SilenceSolutions GmbH has developed a range of designs for effective sound insulation and noise absorption in open-plan offices. The "Ruhemodul Office" absorber walls, a multi-layer system of flexible polyurethane foam enclosed in a perforated metal cassette, adapt to respective situations and reduce noise by more than 20 decibels. Especially designed to efficiently absorb voice frequencies, the "Ruhemodul Office" sound absorption module was a finalist for the 2010 German Innovation Award. To learn more about this German Innovation of the Month, click here.  

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