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Second-language proficiency modulates the brain language control network in bilingual translators: an event-related fMRI study

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 February 2019

Michael Mouthon*
Neurology Unit, Medicine Section, Faculty of Science and Medicine, University of Fribourg, Switzerland
Asaid Khateb
Edmond J. Safra Brain Research Center for the Study of Learning Disabilities and Dept of Learning Disabilities, Faculty of Education, University of Haifa, Israel
François Lazeyras
Department of Radiology and Medical Informatics, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland
Alan J. Pegna
Faculty of Psychology and Educational Science, University of Geneva, CH-1211 Geneva 4, Switzerland and School of Psychology, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld, 4072 Australia
Hannelore Lee-Jahnke
Faculty of Translation and Interpretation, University of Geneva, Switzerland
Caroline Lehr
Faculty of Translation and Interpretation, University of Geneva, Switzerland
Jean-Marie Annoni
Neurology Unit, Medicine Section, Faculty of Science and Medicine, University of Fribourg, Switzerland
Address for correspondence: Dr Michael Mouthon, Email:


In bilinguals, language proficiency has been advanced to influence the involvement of domain-general control networks in language selection. We assessed, in university student translators with moderate- to high-second language (L2) proficiency depending on their translation educational level, the functional activity in the key language and control areas (the caudate nucleus, anterior cingulate, and prefrontal cortex), during task- and language-selection in an oral production context. We found that L2 proficiency influenced the relative involvement of our regions of interest during language selection vs domain-general cognitive control processes. While the left middle frontal and left caudate areas were more involved during linguistic than alphanumeric task selection in the low L2 proficiency group, these regions were similarly involved in both tasks in the high-L2 proficiency group. These findings suggest that language selection relies primarily on a network within domain-general cognitive control system with an increase in resource needs when L2 proficiency is low.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2019

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Second-language proficiency modulates the brain language control network in bilingual translators: an event-related fMRI study
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Second-language proficiency modulates the brain language control network in bilingual translators: an event-related fMRI study