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Poster C69, Thursday, November 9, 10:00 – 11:15 am, Harborview and Loch Raven Ballrooms

Bilingual experience shapes language control networks: the role of L2 AoA and social context of language usage

Jason Gullifer1, Xiaoqian Chai1, Veronica Whitford2,3, Irina Pivneva1, Shari Baum1, Denise Klein1, Debra Titone1;1McGill University, 2Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 3Harvard University

Relative to monolinguals, bilinguals rely more on a distributed network of language and cognitive control regions (including prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, and basal ganglia). Extant research investigates the impact of static language learning history, such as second language (L2) age of acquisition (AoA), on the functional organization of the neurocognitive control system. However, recent theoretical proposals note the additional importance of environmental and contextual factors in determining the type and extent of cognitive control processes deployed for bilingual language control. Bilinguals who maintain social networks where both languages are highly integrated likely shift attention and negotiate cross-language competition more frequently compared to bilinguals who spend their time using one language in each context. Thus, integrative language contexts are predicted to promote greater neurocognitive changes relative to compartmentalized social contexts (Abutalebi & Green, 2013, 2014, 2016). We report resting-state (RS) functional connectivity data from a sample of L1 French – L2 English bilinguals (N=27). RS analysis assesses correlated activation of brain networks when participants are at rest. We computed RS connectivity as a function of static language learning experience (L2 AoA) and the degree of mixed-language usage over social contexts (home, work, school, and social life). Results showed independent contributions of both experiential factors. Early L2 AoA was related to greater connectivity between left and right prefrontal cortex, replicating previous studies (e.g., Berken et al., 2016). Moreover, bilinguals who used the two languages in a more integrative manner exhibited greater connectivity among several areas of the bilingual control network (e.g., between anterior cingulate cortex and putamen, and left caudate and bilateral superior temporal gyri). Functional connectivity within the bilingual language control network was further related to proactive cognitive control as measured by an AX-Continuous Performance Task administered outside the scanner. Together, these findings support the hypothesis that static learning history and the social context of bilingualism jointly tune brain networks related to the control of the two languages. These analyses are being extended to a sample of older adults to investigate how social context of bilingualism affects neural networks during healthy aging.

Topic Area: Multilingualism

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