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Meta-analysis of the neural representation of first language and second language

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 April 2011

University of Texas at Austin
University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio
Boston University Sargent College
ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Rajani Sebastian, Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712. E-mail:


This study reports an activation likelihood estimation meta-analysis of published functional neuroimaging studies of bilingualism. Four parallel meta-analyses were conducted by taking into account the proficiency of participants reported in the studies. The results of the meta-analyses suggest differences in the probabilities of activation patterns between high proficiency and moderate/low proficiency bilinguals. The Talairach coordinates of activation in first language processing were very similar to that of second language processing in the high proficient bilinguals. However, in the low proficient group, the activation clusters were generally smaller and distributed over wider areas in both the hemispheres than the clusters identified in the ALE maps from the high proficient group. These findings draw attention to the importance of language proficiency in bilingual neural representation.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011

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