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AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2004 Apr;25(4):523-32.

Functional MR imaging study of language-related differences in bilingual cerebellar activation.

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  • 1Department of Radiology, the Medical College of Georgia, USA.



Reports in the monolingual literature suggest that the cerebellum has an important role in language processing. The purpose of this study was to determine whether bilingual cerebellar functional MR imaging (fMRI) activation differs during the performance of comparable tasks in subjects' primary and secondary languages.


Eight bilingual, right-handed individuals underwent echo-planar fMRI at 1.5 T. They performed semantic (noun-verb association) and phonological (rhyming) tasks in Spanish (primary language) and English (secondary language). Individual and group functional datasets were analyzed using Statistical Parametric Mapping software (SPM99; P <.001 with a 10-voxel spatial extent threshold) and overlaid on T1-weighted anatomic images normalized to a standard (Montreal Neurologic Institute) space. Analysis of variance was performed on laterality indices derived from voxel counts in cerebellar regions of interest (ROIs). Subtraction of group-averaged normalized results from the combined Spanish tasks from the combined English tasks was also performed within SPM99 (P <.001 activation threshold).


Significantly greater lateralilty indices were noted in the English tasks than in the Spanish tasks (mean Spanish LI, 0.3286; mean English LI, 0.5141 [P =.0143]). Overall, more robust activation was seen in the English tasks than in the Spanish tasks. Areas of significantly greater activation existed in the English tasks as compared with the Spanish tasks; these areas were more prominent in the left cerebellar hemisphere.


Although both English and Spanish language tasks demonstrate left cerebellar dominance, English tasks demonstrate greater left hemispheric lateralization.

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