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Language Control in the Bilingual Brain. Crinion et al. (2006) Ema Salja. Background. Bilinguals can voluntarily control which language is used Distinguish language heard/read Which language speech is to be produced in Inhibition of non-selected language

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language control in the bilingual brain

Language Control in the Bilingual Brain

Crinion et al. (2006)


  • Bilinguals can voluntarily control which language is used
    • Distinguish language heard/read
    • Which language speech is to be produced in
    • Inhibition of non-selected language
  • Proficient bilinguals activate same brain regions regardless of which language presented or produced (Abutalebi, & Perani, 2005).
  • Neural circuits for different languages are overlapping/ interconnected but don’t indicate how brain controls language in use
question hypothesis
Question & Hypothesis
  • What brain areas are responsible for language control?
  • DV: brain activation (fMRI & PET)
  • IV: Language of target
    • Target & prime semantics
    • Target & prime language
  • Hypothesis?
    • They didn’t really have one…
  • Subjects (German-English & Japanese-English bilinguals)visuallyshown pairs of words (i.e. trout-SALMON) in sequence
    • Language
    • Pairs semantically similar/different
    • Target and prime were in same/different language
  • Ignore first word (prime) & make decision based on meaning of second word (target)
    • Time between prime & target optimized for priming, but not long enough to predict target (250 ms)
  • Task presented while subjects being scanned (fMRI & PET)
No significant effect of target language on accuracy
  • Some variance in visual cortex activation
  • Semantic priming in left ventral anterior temporal lobe is language-independent
  • Language-dependent semantic priming only in left caudate (LC)
    • Reduced activation when semantically similar prime & target in same language
  • Suggest that LC plays a role in sensing change in language OR word semantics
  • LC seems to function for language control
    • Neuropsychological study on particular trilingual patient with white matter lesions around LC
      • Retained comprehension in all 3
      • Involuntarily switched between languages during production tasks
limitations next step
Limitations & Next Step


Next Step

Determine adjacent & connecting pathways

Test other bilingual groups

Check effect of varying proficiencies (one language more dominant then other)

  • Characters/wordvariedbetween languages
  • Sample size/bilingual group (~ 10-15)
  • Tested only German-English & Japanese-English bilinguals
final note
Final Note



Difficult to read

No clear question, hypothesis or variables

Not enough information or detail regarding subjects & procedures

  • Interesting Topic
  • Tested bilinguals from completely separate linguistic families
  • Equivalent linguistic proficiencies

Abutalebi, J., & Perani, D. (2005). the neural basis of first and second language processing. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 15, 202-206.

Aso, T., Crinion, J., Fukuyama, H., Green, D. W., Grogan, A., Hanakawa, T.,…Urayama, S. (2006). Language control in the bilingual brain. Science, 312, 1537-1540. doi: 10.1126/science.1127761.