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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1995 Mar 28;92(7):2899-903.

The neural substrates underlying word generation: a bilingual functional-imaging study.

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  • 1Neuropsychology/Cognitive Neuroscience Unit, Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University, QC, Canada.


We used positron emission tomography to investigate word generation in subjects whose first language was English but who were also proficient in French. These subjects performed three types of lexical search: rhyme generation based on phonological cues, synonym generation requiring a semantic search, and translation involving access to a semantic representation in the other language. Two control tasks required word repetition in each language. We investigated whether phonological and semantic word-generation activate similar regions and whether the same neural substrates subserve the second language as subserve the first. A series of cerebral blood flow increases, corresponding to Brodmann's areas 47, 46, 45, and 8, were observed in the left frontal cortex when the baseline repetition task was subtracted from each of the respective generation tasks. The results suggest that common neural substrates are involved in within- and across-language searches and that the left inferior frontal region is activated irrespective of whether the search is guided by phonological or semantic cues.

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