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A research by the UJI shows that bilingualism is associated with a brain reorganization that involves a better efficiency in executive functions
07 July 2010
Universitat Jaume I
The research group of Neuropsychology and Functional Neuroimaging at the Universitat Jaume I of Castellón, led by Professor of Basic Psychology, César Ávila Rivera, has reported that bilinguals are faster and more efficient in certain tasks in which executive functions are used due to a different form of cerebral control.
The study, carried out by the research group of the public university of Castellón, in which have also taken part two professors of the Pompeu Fabra University, has shown that bilinguals use the left inferior frontal lobe, the Broca's area, to respond to stimuli where executive functions are performed (such as ordering forms by colour or shape), whereas monolinguals use the right part to respond to the same stimuli.
The left Broca's area, where indeed occurs the response to change the language, is located in the frontal left hemisphere of the brain and is responsible for performing language processing tasks such as speech production and, in the case of bilinguals, control of the language used. Several behavioural researches had already found this difference in executive functions between bilinguals and monolinguals, but so far there had been developed no neural description.
"Findings are very important because they show an unknown aspect of bilingualism, which goes beyond linguistic advantages, and they also show bilinguals are more effective in responding to certain stimuli," explains researcher Cesar Avila, who ensures the research shows that bilingualism does not only have effects on the brain at a linguistic level, but that it also works differently, emphasizing the importance of introducing languages at an early age because it generates cognitive benefits.
To conduct the research, scientists have had the participation of voluntary students from the Universitat Jaume I and the collaboration of the Hospital General of Castellón, where the functional magnetic resonance imagings are done. The sample was composed of two extreme groups. On the one hand, young people who had developed bilingualism (Catalan and Spanish) at an early age and on the other, young Spanish monolinguals from other regions or other Spanish-speaking countries.
The research will be published in short in the prestigious journal NeuroImage, a publication that gathers articles related to brain functions, under the title: "Bridging Language and Attention: Brain basis of the impact of bilingualism on cognitive control".
This research is part of a larger project of the Consolider-Ingenio 2010 program called "Bilingualism and Cognitive Neuroscience”, a consortium of four Spanish universities (Universitat Jaume I, Pompeu Fabra University, University of Barcelona and University of the Basque Country) which purpose is to study bilingualism, and specifically its neural basis.
Now, the group continues with the research to get replicas of this pattern with more complex tasks such as using linguistic terms because "if we think the process is evolving and we prove it in similar tasks, we can strongly confirm the results" concludes the Professor of Basic Psychology.