Language proficiency modulates the recruitment of non-classical language areas in bilinguals.

TitleLanguage proficiency modulates the recruitment of non-classical language areas in bilinguals.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsLeonard MK, Torres C, Travis KE, Brown TT, Hagler DJ, Dale AM, Elman JL, Halgren E
JournalPLoS One
Date Published2011
KeywordsAdult, Brain Mapping, Female, Humans, Language, Language Development, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Magnetoencephalography, Male, Multilingualism, Young Adult

Bilingualism provides a unique opportunity for understanding the relative roles of proficiency and order of acquisition in determining how the brain represents language. In a previous study, we combined magnetoencephalography (MEG) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine the spatiotemporal dynamics of word processing in a group of Spanish-English bilinguals who were more proficient in their native language. We found that from the earliest stages of lexical processing, words in the second language evoke greater activity in bilateral posterior visual regions, while activity to the native language is largely confined to classical left hemisphere fronto-temporal areas. In the present study, we sought to examine whether these effects relate to language proficiency or order of language acquisition by testing Spanish-English bilingual subjects who had become dominant in their second language. Additionally, we wanted to determine whether activity in bilateral visual regions was related to the presentation of written words in our previous study, so we presented subjects with both written and auditory words. We found greater activity for the less proficient native language in bilateral posterior visual regions for both the visual and auditory modalities, which started during the earliest word encoding stages and continued through lexico-semantic processing. In classical left fronto-temporal regions, the two languages evoked similar activity. Therefore, it is the lack of proficiency rather than secondary acquisition order that determines the recruitment of non-classical areas for word processing.

Alternate JournalPLoS ONE
PubMed ID21455315
PubMed Central IDPMC3063800
Grant ListHD53136 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
K32 NS05609 / NS / NINDS NIH HHS / United States
R01 HD053136 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
R01 HD053136-10 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
R01 NS18741 / NS / NINDS NIH HHS / United States
T32 DC00041 / DC / NIDCD NIH HHS / United States
T32 MH20002 / MH / NIMH NIH HHS / United States
IRG Funded