Affiliation: University of Edinburgh
Born and raised in Cracow, Poland, Dr Thomas H Bak studied medicine in Germany and Switzerland, obtaining his medical doctorate with a thesis on acute aphasias (language disorders caused by brain diseases) at the University of Freiburg (Germany). He worked clinically in psychiatry, neurology and neurosurgery in Basel, Bern, Berlin and Cambridge.
During his time in Cambridge (1995-2006), he established the Clinic for Disorders of Movement and Cognition (DMC). His research addressed in particular the relationship between language, cognition and movement in neurodegenerative diseases and embodied cognition, with a focus on specific deficits in processing verbs/actions and nouns/objects. In this context he developed the Kissing & Dancing Test (KDT) to examine action knowledge. He was also part of the team which developed Addenbrooke’s Cognitive Examination (ACE).
In 2006, he moved to Edinburgh where he continues to work, based at the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic (ARRNC) at the Royal Infirmary (RIE), on the interaction between motor and cognitive functions in patients with dementia. Together with his colleague Sharon Abrahams he developed the Edinburgh Cognitive Assessment (ECAS) for patients in whom dementia is further complicated by motor problems (e.g. weakness, parkinsonism etc). Currently, he is working on Edinburgh Motor Assessment (EMAS), a brief motor screening tool designed specifically for patients with dementia and/or progressive aphasia.
In addition, over the last years he has been focusing increasingly on different aspects of the interaction between bilingualism, language learning and cognition, across the lifespan, in healthy ageing and in brain diseases such as dementia and stroke. He has been working with different populations, in Scotland (Edinburgh, Inner and Outer Hebrides) and across the world (India, Singapore, Malta). From 1 July 2016 he is the strand-leader on Cognition, Health and Well-being on an interdisciplinary, collaborative AHRC grant “Multilingualism: empowering individuals, transforming societies”.
Since 2010, he is the president of the World Federation of Neurology Research Group on Aphasia, Dementia and Cognitive Disorders (WFN RG ADCD). He has teaching experience in seven languages and organised WFN-sponsored teaching courses in cognitive neurology in Europe, Asia and South America (as part of the programme “Cognitive clinics world-wide”).
Main research interests:
- The interaction between bilingualism and cognitive functions across the lifespan and in brain diseases such as dementia and stroke.
- Cognitive effects of language learning, in particular in adult learners
- Embodied cognition and specific deficits in processing of verbs/actions and nouns/objects.
- The relationship between language, cognition and motor functions in dementia, progressive aphasia and other neurodegenerative diseases
- Cognitive and motor screening in dementia and neurodegenerative diseases
- Cross-cultural and cross-linguistic aspects of cognitive evaluation
- Design and adaptation of cognitive tests to different languages and cultures