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The functional overlap of executive control and language processing in bilinguals*

  • EMILY L. CODERRE (a1) (a2) (a3), JASON F. SMITH (a4) (a5), WALTER J.B. VAN HEUVEN (a1) and BARRY HORWITZ (a2)


The need to control multiple languages is thought to require domain-general executive control in bilinguals such that the executive control and language systems become interdependent. However, there has been no systematic investigation into how and where executive control and language processes overlap in the bilingual brain. If the concurrent recruitment of executive control during bilingual language processing is domain-general and extends to non-linguistic control, we hypothesize that regions commonly involved in language processing, linguistic control, and non-linguistic control may be selectively altered in bilinguals compared to monolinguals. A conjunction of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data from a flanker task with linguistic and non-linguistic distractors and a semantic categorization task showed functional overlap in the left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG) in bilinguals, whereas no overlap occurred in monolinguals. This research therefore identifies a neural locus of functional overlap of language and executive control in the bilingual brain.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Emily Coderre, Johns Hopkins University, School of Medicine, Cognitive Neurology/Neuropsychology-Department of Neurology, 1629 Thames Street, Suite 350, Baltimore, MD 21231,


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The authors would like to thank Donald Bolger for help with paradigm design, and Allen Braun for providing research participants. This research was funded in part by the Intramural Research Program of the NIDCD, NIH.



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