Domain-general inhibition areas of the brain are involved in language switching: FMRI evidence from trilingual speakers
SourceNeuroImage, 90, (2014), pp. 348-359
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ BSI OLO
SW OZ DCC PL
SubjectCognitive and developmental aspects of Multilingualism; Language in Mind
The prevailing theory of language switching states that unbalanced bilingual speakers use inhibition to switch between their languages (Inhibitory Control or IC model; Green, 1998). Using fMRI, we examined the brain mechanisms underlying language switching and investigated the role of domain-general inhibition areas such as the right inferior frontal gyrus (rIFG) and the pre-supplementary motor area (pre-SMA). Dutch-English-German trilinguals performed a picture naming task in the MRI scanner in both a blocked-language and a mixed-language context. The rIFG and pre-SMA showed more activation for switches to the second and third language (12 and 13) compared to non-switch trials and blocked trials. No such difference was found for switches to the first language (L1). Our results indicate that language switching recruits brain areas related to domain-general inhibition. In this way, our study supports the claim that multilinguals use inhibition to switch between their languages.
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