Patterns and networks of language control in bilingual language production

Abstract

Many studies have examined the cognitive and neural mechanisms of bilingual language control, but few of them have captured the pattern information of brain activation. However, language control is a functional combination of both cognitive control and language production which demonstrates distinct patterns of neural representations under different language contexts. The first aim of the present study was to explore the brain activation patterns of language control using multivoxel pattern analysis (MVPA). During the experiment, Chinese–English bilinguals were instructed to name pictures in either Chinese or English according to a visually presented cue while being scanned with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). We found that patterns of neural activity in frontal brain regions including the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, left inferior frontal gyrus, left supplementary motor area, anterior cingulate cortex, bilateral precentral gyri, and the left cerebellum reliably discriminated between switch and non-switch conditions. We then modeled causal interactions between these regions by applying effective connectivity analyses based on an extended unified structure equation model (euSEM). The results showed that frontal and fronto-cerebellar connectivity were key components of the language control network. These findings further reveal the engagement of the cognitive control network in bilingual language production.

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Data availability

Statistical maps for multivoxel pattern analysis and effective connectivity analysis have been made available on Mendeley Data at https://data.mendeley.com/datasets/knppbjckxc/4.

Notes

  1. 1.

    The observed global slowing of L1 was also recognized as an index of inhibition of the dominant L1 in bilingual language production (Christoffels et al. 2007; Timmer et al. 2019).

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Acknowledgements

Qiming Yuan and Junjie Wu made equal contributions to this study. We thank Dr. William Graves and three anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments to improve our work.

Funding

The study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31871097), the National Key Basic Research Program of China (2014CB846102), the Interdiscipline Research Funds of Beijing Normal University, and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (2017XTCX04).

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Correspondence to Taomei Guo.

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Yuan, Q., Wu, J., Zhang, M. et al. Patterns and networks of language control in bilingual language production. Brain Struct Funct (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00429-021-02218-7

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Keywords

  • Bilingualism
  • Effective connectivity
  • fMRI
  • Language control
  • MVPA