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Poster A68, Wednesday, November 8, 10:30 – 11:45 am, Harborview and Loch Raven Ballrooms

The Role of Basal Ganglia Filtering Mechanisms in Second Language Aptitude

Brianna L. Yamasaki1, Jose M. Ceballos1, Chantel S. Prat1;1University of Washington

The goal of the current experiment was to investigate the hypothesis that individual differences in basal ganglia (BG) signal routing mechanisms are central to second language (L2) aptitude. This research was motivated by findings demonstrating that the BG dynamically weight signals based on contextual cues, and project these filtered signals to the prefrontal cortex (PFC: e.g., Stocco, Lebiere & Anderson, 2010). Additionally, recent studies have suggested that BG functioning is impaired in language impoverished populations (e.g., Prat, Stocco, Neuhaus, & Kleinhans, 2016) and enhanced in individuals with high verbal-working-memory capacity (e.g., Prat & Just, 2011). Furthermore, the functioning of this circuit has been hypothesized to be central to bilingual language control, as bilingual individuals must select between co-activated language representations dynamically as their speaking context changes (Stocco, Yamasaki, Natalenko, & Prat, 2014). Thus, we proposed that the ability to prioritize contextually relevant information (as measured by BG signal routing) would predict individual differences in L2 aptitude. To test this prediction, we modified a working memory task used by McNab and Klingberg (2008), in which individuals were either asked to remember the location of all presented stimuli, or of only a subset. McNab and Klingberg (2008) showed that activity in the BG during the cue to “filter” was predictive of subsequent memory performance. Our modified version used word stimuli, and semantic categories as the “filter” cue. Sixteen participants completed this neuroimaging task before participating in an eight-week language training program (Prat, Yamasaki, Kluender & Stocco, 2016). Dynamic Causal Modeling was used to measure BG signal routing, and the parameters from the best fitting model were then correlated with performance accuracy during learning. Results showed that the strength of signal modulation between BG and PFC during “filter” instructions predicted better performance during L2 learning (r(14) = .613, p = .020). These findings support the hypothesis that individual differences in BG signal filtering relate to the ability to acquire an L2 in adulthood, and contribute to a broader literature on the role of fronto-striatal communication in linguistic function and dysfunction. References McNab, F., & Klingberg, T. (2008). Prefrontal cortex and basal ganglia control access to working memory. Nature Neuroscience, 11(1), 103-107. Prat, C. S., & Just, M. A. (2011). Exploring the neural dynamics underpinning individual differences in sentence comprehension. Cerebral Cortex, 21(8), 1747-1760. Prat, C. S., Stocco, A., Neuhaus, E., & Kleinhans, N. M. (2016). Basal ganglia impairments in autism spectrum disorder are related to abnormal signal gating to prefrontal cortex. Neuropsychologia, 91, 268-281. Prat, C. S., Yamasaki, B. L., Kluender, R. A., & Stocco, A. (2016). Resting-state qEEG predicts rate of second language learning in adults. Brain and Language, 157, 44-50. Stocco, A., Lebiere, C., & Anderson, J. R. (2010). Conditional routing of information to the cortex: A model of the basal ganglia’s role in cognitive coordination. Psychological Review, 117(2), 541. Stocco, A., Yamasaki, B., Natalenko, R., & Prat, C. S. (2014). Bilingual brain training: A neurobiological framework of how bilingual experience improves executive function. International Journal of Bilingualism, 18(1), 67-92.

Topic Area: Multilingualism

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