Newsletter No. 534

08 # 5 3 4 | 1 9 . 0 3 . 2 0 1 9 口 谈 实 录 / V iva V oce 黄俊文教授 Prof. Patrick Wong Photo by ISO Staff 能否简介一下你的获奖研究「多巴胺相关基因与语 言学习」? 不同的大脑神经网络管控着不同的语言成分—例如 音韵、语法、语意—的处理和学习功能。各种基因经 这些网络表现出来,调节网络内担当信使的神经递 质。这些我们假设与神经递质多巴胺有关的基因,因 此和语言息息相关。我们正在从语言学习者身上收集 数据,分析他们的基因资料,以验证该假设。 研究将带来什么实际影响? 语言障碍影响大约8%的人口。此项研究有望建立语 言障碍的神经遗传学基础,最终制定一套以生物学 为基的测试,更客观的诊断语言障碍,与现时通用的 行为评估法互为补足。 怎样结缘语言学? 我自小对各国语言很着迷,喜欢分析它们怎样演化至 今天的模样。语言学是对语言的系统研究,能让我满 足好奇,并了解语言和人体生理构造的关联。 你会说多少种语言? 只有中文和英文。但由于所有主修语言学的学生都必 须修几门外语,所以我曾学过德文、法文和拉丁文。 请诠释一下大脑与认知研究所强调「从分子到行为」 的研究取向。 语言和认知是能从行为上观察和测量的现象。这些行 为与大脑相连,而大脑功能由基因调控。研究所是以 致力从基因分子到行为的层面,研究语言和认知障 碍,希望更全面的探个究竟。 研究所为何着力研究华人社会的自闭症? 人类许多行为都受文化局限,眼神接触和注视便是一 例。研究指出,东亚人和北美人面对同一幅图画,注 视的方式并不一样。东亚人倾向既看前景也看背景, 而欧裔北美人会将大部分注意力放在前景,往往是脸 部。 自闭症的特征之一是社交障碍,眼神接触微弱或缺少 是指标之一,但这观察是由研究欧裔人而来。如果眼 神接触等特征会因文化而异,那么评估不同地域的人 就应慎重衡量这些特征。 你是语言障碍及音乐失认症方面的专家。二者关系 如何? 世上大多数语言都属口语。口语关乎听觉,需要调动 大脑负责听觉的部位。音乐显然也关乎听觉。因此两 者首要的关联是都用上听觉神经系统。其次,两者都 受规则、语法约束。我们许多研究都在探讨,如果某 人在语言或音乐其中一方面有障碍,另一方面会否同 样受影响。 你可有语言学家的职业习惯,例如暗中分析和你倾 谈的人? 我常常留意别人说话的发音而非内容。我会从对方的 口音猜测他们来自哪里、几岁开始学外语。有时会太 入迷以致跟不上他们究竟想要告诉我些什么。 研究资助局「人文学及社会科学杰出学者奖」得主谈语言的基因、华人社会的自闭症, 以及他对口音的执着。 The recipient of the Humanities and Social Sciences Prestigious Fellowship from the Research Grants Council talked to CUHK Newsletter on the genes of language, autism in the Chinese context, and his obsession with accents. Could you tell us in layman’s terms about your award-winning research project—dopamine-related genes and language learning? Different brain networks are responsible for the processing and learning of different components of language, e.g., sound pattern, grammar, meaning. Different genes are expressed in these networks or they regulate the neurotransmitters within these brain networks. Thus, these genes, which we hypothesized are related to the neurotransmitter dopamine, are associated with language. What we are doing now is to empirically test this hypothesis by gathering data from language learners and by specifically analysing their genetic data. What impact does this research have for the real world? It provides a model for the neurogenetic basis of language disorders which affect about 8% of the population. We may ultimately develop a biologically-based, objective test for language disorders to complement the typical behavioural assessment. How did you get into linguistics? Ever since I was a child, I’ve been fascinated by different languages. I liked to analyse languages and understand how they become what they are. Linguistics is the scientific study of language, and it gives me the opportunity to learn more about languages and how language is associated with our biological makeups. How many languages do you speak? Just Chinese and English. But all linguistics majors have to learn a number of different languages, so I did learn German, French and Latin. BMI emphasizes the ‘from molecule to behaviour’ approach to research. Please elaborate. Language and cognition are phenomena that we can observe and measure behaviourally. These behaviours are linked to our brain, and brain functions are regulated by genes. At the BMI, we are interested in studying language and cognitive disorders across this spectrum—from DNA molecule to behaviour—so that we can understand them most comprehensively. Why has BMI been focusing on studying autism in the Chinese context? Many of our behaviours are culture-bound. Eye contact and gaze is one example. Research suggests that East Asians and North Americans, when presented with the same picture, do not look at it the same way. East Asians tend to balance looking at the background and foreground while people of European descent in North America would pay more attention to the foreground, which in a lot of the cases is the face. One characteristic of autism is impairment in social interaction including poor quality or lower frequency of eye contact. But that is a conclusion drawn from research on European subjects. If eye contact and gaze or other traits differ across cultures, we should consider carefully how these traits should be evaluated when working with individuals from different cultures. You’re an expert in both language and music disorders. How are the two related? The vast majority of languages in the world are spoken languages. They are auditory and require us to use the parts of our brain that are responsible for hearing. Music is obviously also auditory. So the two are related first because they use the auditory neural system. The two are also governed by rules or grammar. In a lot of our studies, we try to understand whether someone who has a disorder in one domain—language or music—would also have a disorder in the other. As a linguist, do you have the habit of analysing your interlocutors? Oftentimes, I pay attention to the sound pattern of someone’s speech rather than its content. For example, I would like to know from their accents where they are from and the age at which they acquire a second language. Sometimes I even lose track of what they are trying to tell me. Christine N. 语言学及现代语言系  Department of Linguistics and Modern Languages 何鸿燊认知神经科学讲座教授  Stanley Ho Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience 大脑与认知研究所所长  Director of Brain and Mind Institute (BMI)

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