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The neurobiology of simultaneous interpreting: Where extreme language control and cognitive control intersect

  • Alexis Hervais-Adelman (a1) and Laura Babcock (a2)


Simultaneous interpreting is a complex cognitive task that requires the concurrent execution of multiple processes: listening, comprehension, conversion of a message from one language to another, speech production, and self-monitoring. This requires the deployment of an array of linguistic and cognitive control mechanisms that must coordinate the various brain systems implicated in handling these tasks. How the brain handles this challenge remains an open question, and recent brain imaging investigations have begun to complement the theories based on behavioural data. fMRI studies have shown that simultaneous interpreting engages a network of brain regions encompassing those implicated in speech perception and production, language switching, self-monitoring, and selection. Structural imaging studies have been carried out that also indicate modifications to a similar set of structures. In the present paper, we review the extant data and propose an integrative model of simultaneous interpreting that piggybacks on existing theories of multilingual language control.

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Corresponding author

Author for correspondence: Prof. Alexis Hervais-Adelman, E-mail:


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