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Foreign language undermines the modulatory role of medial frontal cortex during affect labeling

Poster D11 in Poster Session D with Social Hour, Friday, October 7, 5:30 - 7:15 pm EDT, Millennium Hall

Tatiana Davydova1, Lidón Marín Marín, Esteban Villar-Rodríguez, Cristina Cano Melle, Víctor Costumero; 1Jaume I University

Keywords: Affect labeling, fMRI, bilingualism, language, emotion regulation, gPPI. The process of explicit verbal identification of emotional states, also known as affect labeling, helps to attenuate negative emotional experiences by reducing amygdala activation through neural processes mediated by the ventrolateral and medial prefrontal areas. The effect that the use of foreign language may exert on this process is not clearly understood. A previous study showed that affect labeling in a second language did not produce the expected reduction in amygdala activity (Vives et al., 2021). Given that foreign language processing is a cognitively taxing process that involves a number of frontal control areas, the authors suggested that overlapping activity in these regulatory areas could divert cognitive resources needed for the affect labeling task, thus reducing its effect on amygdala deactivation (the so-called detrimental hypothesis). However, this study did not investigate effects of foreign language on the functional connectivity of frontal control areas, therefore, this hypothesis remained speculative. The current study has two aims: 1) to replicate the previous findings in amygdala using an independent and large sample; and 2) to study foreign language effects on affect labeling in the functional connectivity of frontal modulatory regions. Thirty-four unbalanced Spanish (L1) / English (L2) bilinguals (24 females, mean age = 22.18, sd = ± 2.69) completed an adapted version of the fMRI affect labeling task (Lieberman et al., 2007) that included Affect labeling and Gender labeling conditions in Spanish and English as well as two control conditions (Affect matching and Shape matching). Structural 3D and functional EPI sequences were acquired on a 3T GE Signa-Architect scanner. Functional data was pre-processed according to the standard pipeline using SPM12 (Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, London, UK). Group analyses centered on investigating the interaction effect between language (L1, L2) and condition (Gender labeling, Affect labeling) and involved two approaches: 1) a ROI analysis to investigate interaction effects in amygdala activity; 2) a whole-brain gPPI analysis to investigate foreign language effects on the functional connectivity of frontal regions previously associated with affect labeling (right inferior frontal cortex and medial frontal cortex). Our ROI analysis revealed a significant interaction between type of matching and language (F = 5.165, p<0.030) for left amygdala. Post-hoc comparisons showed that left amygdala was significantly more active during Gender labeling compared to Affect labeling in L1 (t = -3.523, p<0.001), whereas this difference did not prove to be significant for L2 (t = -0.26, p=0.8) due to the absence of labeling effect. The gPPI analysis showed that medial frontal cortex activity was negatively associated with the activity of inferior occipitotemporal areas during affect labeling in L1 but not in L2 (all cluster-corrected at p<0.05, FDR). Our results support the detrimental hypothesis, that is, we replicated the effects of foreign language on amygdala down-regulation during affect labeling. Furthermore, the inverse correlation between the neural activation in the mPFC and occipitotemporal areas during Affect labeling in L1 may suggest the involvement of reentrant mechanisms between amygdala and visual areas that modulate perceptual processing.

Topic Areas: Multilingualism, Multisensory or Sensorimotor Integration

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