The study of bilingualism and its relation to mind and brain both at the level of the individual and society has assumed much importance recently. Particularly within cognitive and brain sciences, it has become very popular due to the discovery that the practice of bilingualism confers long term benefits and cognitive reserve. There is also another facet to the bilingual brain which has come to attention through recent research. That is, bilinguals are more sensitive to environmental cues that they use to manage their languages appropriate to the context. For example, they are more sensitive to facial information and use this for cognitive control that has been measured in many experimental tasks. Given this theoretical background, The PhD research of Dr. Keerthana Kapiley working at the Action Control and Cognition lab, at the Centre for Neural and Cognitive Sciences, University of Hyderabad (UoH) dealt with the issue of how bilingual Telugu-English speakers show sensitivity to other animated bilinguals (cartoon interlocutors presented on the computer monitor) and modulate their language and behavior. Many experiments carried out by her using cutting edge experimental paradigms demonstrated this fact. That bilingual speakers map out the language and other cognitive potential of their interlocutors and use this knowledge in controlling their own behavior. This interface between bilingualism and cognition is a major discovery. The research was published in the flagship international journal Bilingualism: Language and Cognition. Dr Kapily also has published many other papers related to this idea in major journals.
The DST postdoctoral fellowship in cognitive science is a flagship initiative by DST under its Cognitive Science Research Initiative to promote the study and develop trained manpower in the area of cognitive science which is not very old in India. The fellowship is highly competitive and is given annually to a handful of recent cognitive science graduates. Dr Kapiley has received this fellowship to study under Dr. Prakas Mondal at the Department of Liberal Arts, IIT- Hyderabad. This is a three years award to carry out cutting edge empirical research in cognitive science. She will be investigating the variables affecting semantic processing in bilingual children. Dr Kapily had earlier visited the language and cognition lab of Dr. Mila Vulchanova at NTNU under the global Erasmus exchange programme that was awarded to Prof. Mishra to work with Prof. Mila in the area of bilingualism.
Dr. Kapily has completed her PhD under the supervision of Prof. Ramesh Kumar Mishra who is an international expert in the area of bilingualism and cognition. He is an editorial board member of the journal Bilingualism: Language and Cognition and his most recent research monograph (Bilingualism and Cognitive Control) is published by Springer-nature. He has published widely in this area in many prestigious journals and has also organized many international conferences in the area of bilingualism.
The research conducted by Dr Kapily under the supervision of Prof. Mishra has significant social impact considering the fact that India is largely a bi-multilingual country. The research shows how usage of language shapes everyday cognition which is very vital to any life activity. At the moment, Prof. Mishra is further extending these ideas into bilingualism in the illiterate population through joint collaborative research projects with Prof. Suvarna Alladi of NIMHANS, another international expert in the area of bilingualism and brain functions.