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Poster A2

Neurophysiological correlates of auditory attention in monolinguals and bilinguals

Poster Session A - Saturday, April 13, 2024, 2:30 – 4:30 pm EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Wenfu Bao1 (, Alejandro Pérez2, Claude Alain1, Michael Thaut1, Monika Molnar1; 1University of Toronto, 2University of Surrey

Previous research suggests that the cognitive differences between monolinguals and bilinguals may lie in their attention abilities, especially in the auditory domain. In the present study, we investigated the neurophysiological correlates of attention using brain oscillations, pupil dilation, and heart rate in monolingual and bilingual adults. We aimed to answer two questions: (1) what are the effects of language experience and cognitive load on the neurophysiological measures of attention; and (2) how are these measures modulated by participants’ individual language and cognitive abilities. We tested 70 English speakers (35 monolingual, 35 simultaneous bilingual; 18-25 years old) and simultaneously collected their EEG, eye movement and heart rate data while they completed two active listening tasks that varied in cognitive load levels (low vs. high). Participants listened to short passages (spoken in a familiar or unfamiliar language) in the linguistic task and musical sounds (composed of fewer or more instruments) in the nonlinguistic task. We assessed participants’ language and cognitive abilities via Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals and Test of Nonverbal Intelligence, respectively. We observed no language experience effects but significant cognitive load effects on measures like pupil size and mean heart rate across task domains. These findings suggest that bilingualism as a categorical variable (monolingual vs. bilingual) does not predict participants’ neurophysiological measures whereas cognitive load (low vs. high) does. Overall, this neurophysiological approach to assessing monolingual and bilingual cognitive profiles can contribute to advancing current theoretical models.

Topic Area: ATTENTION: Auditory


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April 13–16  |  2024