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Neurophysiological correlates of auditory attention in monolinguals and bilinguals

Poster D3 in Poster Session D with Social Hour, Friday, October 7, 5:30 - 7:15 pm EDT, Millennium Hall
This poster is part of the Sandbox Series.

Wenfu Bao1, Monika Molnar1; 1University of Toronto

Introduction: Evidence suggests that bilinguals allocate attention to spoken language to a larger extent than monolinguals (Garcia et al., 2018). Here, we propose a study that investigates the neurophysiological correlates of attention allocation during auditory processing, by co-registering EEG, eye-tracking, and heart rate in monolingual and bilingual adults. Specifically, we ask the following three questions: (1) what is the difference between the two language groups in their neurophysiological measurements (i.e., neural oscillations, involuntary eye movements, and heart rate); (2) what are the effects of different stimulus type (linguistic vs. non-linguistic) and cognitive load level (high vs. low) of the task across language groups; (3) is there any correlation between neurophysiological responses and general language/cognitive abilities measured by behavioral tests. Methods: Seventy young adults will be recruited, including 35 monolingual and 35 simultaneous bilingual English speakers from comparable socioeconomic backgrounds. Sample size is calculated based on previous research similar to our study. Prior to the experiment, participants will fill out the Language Experience and Proficiency Questionnaire (LEAP-Q) to evaluate their language background and proficiency and to determine the grouping. During the experiment, participants will complete an auditory recognition task, which consists of two sessions (linguistic and non-linguistic) and each has 18 trials. In each trial, participants listen to a short passage (spoken in English or an unfamiliar language Hebrew, i.e., linguistic session) or a series of instrument sounds (occurred in different combinations and varied by interstimulus intervals, i.e., non-linguistic session) while presented with isoluminant videos on the screen. Then they will be asked to recognize a target stimulus (i.e., a word or sound) by pressing a button. The task complexity varies by the cognitive load required (e.g., higher level for listening to a Hebrew passage, or identifying an instrument sound occurred less frequently). In addition to their behavioral responses, participants’ EEG (e.g., gamma-band oscillations, associated with attentional selection), eye movement (e.g., microsaccades and pupil dilation, indices of attentional effort), and heart rate (an indicator of arousal) data will be collected. After the experiment, participants will complete the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals (CELF-5) and Test of Nonverbal Intelligence (TONI-4) to assess general language and cognitive abilities, respectively. Data Analysis: Regression analyses will be conducted to investigate the effects of manipulated variables and to quantify the link between behavioral and neurophysiological measures. The outcome variables include response accuracy, brain oscillations, eye movements (microsaccades, pupil size) and heart rate (mean heart rate, interbeat interval). The predictor variables include language group, stimulus type and cognitive load level. The confounding variables are scores obtained from CELF-5 and TONI-4. Anticipated Results and Significance: We predict that monolinguals and bilinguals will have different neurophysiological responses, which will likely be affected by stimulus type and task complexity and confounded with participants’ language/cognitive abilities. This novel neurophysiological explanation of cognitive differences between monolinguals and bilinguals will contribute to advancing theoretical models on bilingual development. Pilot data will be presented.

Topic Areas: Multilingualism, Control, Selection, and Executive Processes

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