Neurofunctional correlates of word processing in Spanish monolinguals and Spanish-English bilinguals with different age of acquisition of L2.

Neurofunctional correlates of word processing in Spanish monolinguals and Spanish-English bilinguals with different age of acquisition of L2.

First Author: Andrés González-Garrido -- University of Guadalajara
Additional authors/chairs: 
Alioth Guerrero-Aranda, ; Fabiola R. Gomez-Velazquez; R.M. Joshi
Keywords: Bilingualism, Reading, functional MRI, Spanish, Lexical Decision
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose: To compare the brain activation patterns associated with word processing in monolinguals (M) and two groups of bilinguals [Spanish: L1, English: L2 –with an early (EA) or later acquisition (LB)] in languages with different levels of orthographic transparency.

Methods: 30 right-handed male native Spanish speakers with normal IQ (mean age = 16.5 years) participated. Ten participants were M, and the others were divided according to the age in which L2 was acquired (EA: 9, LB: 11). fMRI brain scans were obtained while performing a lexical decision task using visual words and pseudowords in both languages.

Results: Reaction times were longer and accuracy was lower while processing pseudowords. Brain activation of language areas was common for all the groups. The functional contrasts for the task in Spanish detailed slight differences between M (left supramarginal/right fusiform gyri), EB (left fusiform/angular gyri, right temporal pole), and LB (left supramarginal/right fusiform gyri, right temporal pole). In the L2 task, EB showed strong right activations (supramarginal/inferior frontal gyri) compared to M and LB.

Conclusions: The results seem to depict how L2 shapes the neural functional network underlying word processing. Adaptive changes in brain activation patterns reflect how the mnesic representations of the words can be progressively stronger and easily used, particularly when L2 is early acquired.