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Conflict monitoring and detection in the bilingual brain

  • SUSAN TEUBNER-RHODES (a1), DONALD J. BOLGER (a2) and JARED M. NOVICK (a3)

Abstract

Bilinguals sometimes outperform monolinguals on tasks involving cognitive control – the regulation of mental activity when confronted with information-processing conflict – perhaps stemming from experience monitoring for and resolving conflict between languages. We test the hypothesis that bilingualism affects moment-to-moment cognitive-control recruitment by examining how trial history influences bilinguals’ and monolinguals’ behavioral performance and associated neural activity on a Stroop task. We assessed dynamic effects of preceding trial conflict on current trial performance to separate the ability to proactively detect conflict (performance on new instances of conflict) from the ability to reactively recruit cognitive control (performance on trials following conflict). Across two experiments, monolinguals’ – but not bilinguals’ – accuracy decreased after non-conflict trials, i.e., when detecting initial conflicts. Bilinguals exhibited greater conflict-detection activity in ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (vlPFC/insula; BA 47) within a language-switching network, suggesting that they may monitor for information-conflict more proactively than monolinguals by recruiting brain regions involved in switching languages.

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Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Susan Teubner-Rhodes, Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Medical University of South Carolina, 135 Rutledge Ave, MSC550, Charleston, SC 29425teubnera@musc.edu

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The authors thank Angie Laird and Gigi Luk for correspondence regarding region of interest analyses. This material is based upon work supported, in whole or in part, with funding from the United States Government. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Maryland, College Park and/or any agency or entity of the United States Government. This work was supported in part by NSF-IGERT training grant DGE-0801465.

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Keywords

Conflict monitoring and detection in the bilingual brain

  • SUSAN TEUBNER-RHODES (a1), DONALD J. BOLGER (a2) and JARED M. NOVICK (a3)

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