Poster F66, Tuesday, March 28, 8:00 – 10:00 am, Pacific Concourse
Bilingual Proficiency is Associated with Cortical Responses During Language Processing
Rebecca Marks1, Zhichao Xia2, Roeland Hancock2, Yuuko Uchikoshi3, Ioulia Kovelman1, Fumiko Hoeft2; 1University of Michigan, 2University of California, San Francisco, 3University of California, Davis
How does immersion in more than one language impact a child’s language and literacy development? Children learning two languages may spend less time practicing the use of each language, which can lead to delayed acquisition. However, combined bilingual exposure may offer linguistically-enriched experience that promotes advanced metalinguistic development. Prior research finds that monolingual children with a richer language environment have more left-lateralized neural responses to phonological awareness tasks. We hypothesize that bilingual experience will also yield a more left-lateralized organization for language, indicating targeted development of brain regions underlying language and reading acquisition. METHOD. Participants were bilingual kindergarteners attending Spanish-English or Chinese (Cantonese)-English schools. Children completed an auditory processing task and a phonological awareness task during fMRI imaging as well as standardized vocabulary measures in each of their languages. Children were within age-appropriate norms of English acquisition but varied widely in their knowledge of their other language. The vocabulary scores were combined across languages to create a continuum of scores indicating children’s overall bilingual proficiency. RESULTS. Preliminary results (n=18, M=5.86 years) indicate that children with better combined bilingual ability showed more specialized cortical responses during language processing: they had greater left hemisphere activation along the brain regions typically associated with language and reading processes. Conversely, children with lower bilingual ability showed greater right hemisphere activation. These findings suggest that bilingualism does not delay but rather potentially enhances child brain development for language and literacy.
Topic Area: LANGUAGE: Other