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The role of brain oscillations in bilingual language processing: insights from tACS and EEG

   School of Psychology

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  Dr Walter Van Heuven  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Project Description

This PhD project investigates the causal link between brain oscillations and bilingual language processing through transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS), which is a non-invasive brain stimulation technique. Brain oscillations at specific frequency bands observed with electroencephalography (EEG) have been associated with specific aspects of bilingual language processing. For example, Wen et al. (2018) reported gamma-band oscillations that were modulated differently by repetition of Chinese sounds (phonemes/tones) when Chinese-English bilinguals read pairs of Chinese (L1) words, and when they read the English (L2) translation of these L1 words. Furthermore, Perez et al. (2022) investigated forward translation (from L1 to L2) and backward translation (from L2 to L1) and reported theta power differences between forward and backward translation.

The first year of the project will focus first on how modulation of oscillations through tACS impacts forward and backward translation using a behavioural masked translation priming paradigm. The second year will focus on automatic translation in a purely L2 context. EEG data has revealed that L1 translations are automatically activated when bilinguals read in their L2 (Thierry & Wu, 2007). Further research has shown that gamma oscillations were modulated when L1 translations activated by the L2 had repeated sounds (Wen et al., 2018). Therefore, tACS targeting gamma band oscillations will be applied in a behavioural experiment to investigate the behavioural impact on automatic translation using a similar design as Wen et al. (2018). Additional experiments will involve both EEG and tACS to investigate the effectiveness of tACS to modulate oscillatory brain activity in bilinguals.


G. Pérez et al., Neuroscience 481, 134 (2022).

G. Thierry, Y. J. Wu, Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 104, 12530 (2007).

Y. Wen, R. Filik, W. J. B. van Heuven, Sci Reports 6869, 1 (2018).

Additional Information:

The studentship is part of a cohort of 7 funded studentships in the School of Psychology. You can find more information about the PhD environment and the department can be found via these webpages:



How to apply:

All applications are to be made directly to the University, selecting PhD Psychology (36 months duration) as the course. Please apply at:


In the research proposal section please only include “7 fully funded PhD posts in Psychology” in the title. You are required to upload the following documents to your application:

  • C.V.
  • Personal statement (maximum 1 page) about why you are interested in pursuing a PhD in psychology, any relevant research experience and brief details on what project(s) you are interested in and why.
  • Either two references (in a non-editable format such as pdf, on headed paper and signed by the referee) or the details (email addresses) of two referees that we can contact. One of the references must be academic.

If you have any questions about the application process through MyNottingham, please contact [Email Address Removed] for further advice.

Deadline: 15th July 2022

Funding Notes

The studentships are funded by the Faculty of Science and will provide a stipend to cover living costs (approximately £15,875) and cover Home University fees (estimated at £4,496) for the duration of the project and thesis writing (36 months). Please note the level of support will not cover international fees (around £25,000 a year). Candidates are encouraged to contact the lead supervisor of the project they are interested in before making an application.
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