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Cereb Cortex. 2015 Dec;25(12):4727-39. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhu158. Epub 2014 Jul 17.

fMRI of Simultaneous Interpretation Reveals the Neural Basis of Extreme Language Control.

Author information

Brain and Language Lab, Department of Clinical Neuroscience.
Faculty of Translation and Interpreting.
Functional Brain Mapping Lab, Department of Fundamental Neuroscience, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.


We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the neural basis of extreme multilingual language control in a group of 50 multilingual participants. Comparing brain responses arising during simultaneous interpretation (SI) with those arising during simultaneous repetition revealed activation of regions known to be involved in speech perception and production, alongside a network incorporating the caudate nucleus that is known to be implicated in domain-general cognitive control. The similarity between the networks underlying bilingual language control and general executive control supports the notion that the frequently reported bilingual advantage on executive tasks stems from the day-to-day demands of language control in the multilingual brain. We examined neural correlates of the management of simultaneity by correlating brain activity during interpretation with the duration of simultaneous speaking and hearing. This analysis showed significant modulation of the putamen by the duration of simultaneity. Our findings suggest that, during SI, the caudate nucleus is implicated in the overarching selection and control of the lexico-semantic system, while the putamen is implicated in ongoing control of language output. These findings provide the first clear dissociation of specific dorsal striatum structures in polyglot language control, roles that are consistent with previously described involvement of these regions in nonlinguistic executive control.


caudate; cognitive control; language control; multilingualism; putamen

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