2011 Donald O. Hebb Distinguished Contribution Award Winner: Dr. Ellen Bialystok

Dr. Bialystok’s work in language learning, bilingualism, literacy, education and aging is recognized by a Killam Research Fellowship, her appointment as Distinguished Research Professor at York University, her election to Fellowship of the Royal Society of Canada, and a York University President’s Research Award of Merit.

Dr. Bialystok is a true intellectual with broad interests and an ability to investigate large issues using tight experiments. She has written four books and she has edited three further volumes; of these, her single- authored books ‘Language processing in bilingual children’ (1991) and ‘Bilingualism in development’ (2001) have had a major influence in the fields of psycholinguistics and cognitive development. Her list of refereed journal articles is in excess of 100 and she has written 50 book chapters. Dr. Bialystok’s recent work examining the consequences of bilingualism for other cognitive functions such as attentional control, executive functions and lexical access has been extremely well received and expands our understanding of cognition in general.

Dr. Bialystok's research on children led to the discovery of a processing advantage associated with bilingualism—bilingual children can more efficiently inhibit irrelevant stimuli and segregate competing streams of information—and she is now exploring whether this bilingual advantage extends into adulthood and old age, whether indeed it is a protective factor to counteract age-related cognitive decline. Articles reporting these results have appeared in Psychology and Aging (2004) and Neuropsychologia (2007). In addition, Dr. Bialystok is examining the neural correlates of this bilingual advantage; one study has been completed using MEG technology (NeuroCase, 2005) and others are now underway using fMRI and ERP. Thus her research work, while still mainly focusing on cognitive development, is increasingly concerned with cognitive processes, and with the underlying cognitive neuroscience.

Dr. Bialystok is a scientist of the highest order, a role model to her students and peers alike.