Effect of bilingualism on cognitive control in the Simon task: evidence from MEG

Neuroimage. 2005 Jan 1;24(1):40-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2004.09.044.


The present study used magneto-encephalography (MEG) to determine the neural correlates of the bilingual advantage previously reported for behavioral measures in conflict tasks. Bilingual Cantonese-English, bilingual French-English, and monolingual English speakers, performed the Simon task in the MEG. Reaction times were faster for congruent than for incongruent trials, and the Cantonese group was faster than the other two groups, which did not differ from each other. Analyses of the MEG data using synthetic aperture magnetometry (SAM) and partial last squares (PLS) showed that the same pattern of activity, involving signal changes in left and medial prefrontal areas, characterized all three groups. Correlations between activated regions and reaction times, however, showed that the two bilingual groups demonstrated faster reaction times with greater activity in superior and middle temporal, cingulate, and superior and inferior frontal regions, largely in the left hemisphere. The monolinguals demonstrated faster reaction times with activation in middle frontal regions. The interpretation is that the management of two language systems led to systematic changes in frontal executive functions.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Color Perception / physiology*
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology
  • Female
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetoencephalography*
  • Male
  • Multilingualism*
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Reading*
  • Reference Values
  • Semantics*
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology