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Consolider Groups
Speech Perception, Production and Bilingualism
Cognitive Neuroscience of Auditory Perception and Attention
Group of Attention, Action and Perception
Computational and Theoretical Neuroscience
Neuropsychology and Functional Neuroimaging
Grammar and Bilingualism

Subgroup: Speech Production and Bilingualism (SPB)

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Subgroup coordinator: Albert Costa

Subgroup members: Francesca Branzi, Marco Calabria, Ian FitzPatrick, Alexandra Ibañez, Clara Martin, Elin Runnquist, Jasmin Sadat, Kristof Strijkers.

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Despite the ease with which we speak, the cognitive and brain processes behind this ability are extremely complex. In the Speech Production and Bilingualism group we explore these mechanisms, paying special attention to cases in which the speaker knows more than one language. We assess various issues using behavioral and neuroscientific methods, and examining the performance of both healthy and linguistically impaired individuals. In the last three years, a great deal of effort has been devoted to understanding how the linguistic system interacts with the general executive function system to achieve language control during bilingual language production.



Language control in Bilingual contexts. Bilingual speakers need to control both their languages during language processing in order to avoid massive interference from the language that is not in use. The main goal of this project is to expand our knowledge of the cognitive mechanisms and the brain implementation involved in language control in bilingual contexts. We assess this issue from the perspectives of both production and comprehension, making use of behavioral and neuroimaging techniques to understand how the brain implements two different languages.

In particular, our previous research revealed that speakers access their lexicon about 200 ms after the presentation of visual cues. We are currently studying whether bilingualism delays this stage of lexical access when speaking either in the first or in the second language.

Linguistic and non-linguistic Switching in Bilinguals. Bilingual speakers have a remarkable ability to switch from one language to the other very quickly, easily, and without interference. The first goal of subproject 2 is to investigate this language switching ability and how it is influenced by proficiency. We run a series of ERP experiments to examine the picture naming performance of bilingual speakers involved in a language switching task. We aim to define electrophysiological markers of language switching, and t define how much it depends on language proficiency.

The second goal of this subproject is to determine whether bilinguals are better than monolinguals at switching from one non-linguistic task to another because they are used to doing this in the linguistic domain. We are running several behavioral experiments to assess the impact of bilingualism on non-linguistic task-switching by using a paradigm that allows dissociation between two different sources of switching costs: the local and restart costs. The first results suggest that bilingualism has a positive impact on mechanisms for deciding whether to switch or not (the restart cost is smaller in bilinguals than in monolinguals; Figure 1). We also run ERP experiments to assess which task-switching processes are anticipated during cue processing (task preparation) and which ones are implemented during target processing (task execution).


Figure 1 Magnitude of the Local (RTs first trial after a switch-cue – RTs first trial after a repeat-cue) and Restart (RTs first trial after a repeat-cue – RTs second trial after a repeat-cue) costs broken down by group of participants. Error bars represent standard error.


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