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Gesa Hartwigsen

Early Career Award

The Society for the Neurobiology of Language is pleased to announce the 2020 Early Career Award winner: Gesa Hartwigsen.

The Early Career Award is generously sponsored by Brain & Language.

Gesa HartwigsenAdaptive neuroplasticity in the language network

Speaker: Gesa Hartwigsen, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany

Language is organized in large-scale networks in the human brain. In this talk, I discuss rapid short-term reorganization and adaptive plasticity in the healthy and lesioned language network. Combining neurostimulation with neuroimaging, I will show that focal perturbation of key language areas may be compensated by a stronger contribution of homologous regions, neighbouring regions for other specialized language functions or domain-general areas. These mechanisms of adaptive systems plasticity are summarized in a model on the flexible redistribution in neural networks for cognition. Moving beyond the language network, I will further outline our recent work on the process-specific overlap and dissociation in the neural networks underlying semantic processing, attention and social cognition. These data provide insight into hemispheric asymmetries for key cognitive functions in the human brain.

About Gesa Hartwigsen

Gesa Hartwigsen received her PhD in Psychology from Kiel University in 2010. After completing post-doctoral research at the Language and Aphasia Laboratory, University of Leipzig, she was appointed as Assistant Professor for Biological Psychology at Kiel University in 2013. She joined the Department of Neuropsychology at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) in Leipzig as a group leader in 2015. In 2019, she was appointed as an Independent Research Group Leader at the MPI CBS, supported by the Lise Meitner Excellence Program of the Max Planck Society.

Dr. Hartwigsen’s research program is centred on the investigation of neuroplasticity in the language network across the adult life span. During her PhD studies, she established multifocal neurostimulation approaches to demonstrate that the right hemisphere makes an essential contribution to efficient language processing in the healthy brain. Soon after, she developed her own research program to study flexible interactions in the language network. Her work combines multiple neurostimulation approaches with neuroimaging and electroencephalography to probe interactions and adaptive plasticity at the neural network level. Dr. Hartwigsen recently offered a model on the interaction of domain-specific language regions with domain-general areas. Her key assumption is that compensation for perturbation of a language area can either be achieved within the network or across networks via flexible redistribution of functions. Her interdisciplinary research agenda is funded by the Max Planck Society and the German Research Foundation. Dr. Hartwigsen has already published over 60 papers in high-ranking journals and is regularly invited to present her work at different international institutions and conferences. Her strong neurostimulation background and her interest in systems neuroplasticity provide unique perspectives and new insights into the neurobiology of language. We congratulate Gesa for this impressive research and contribution to our field.