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The functional overlap of executive control and language processing in bilinguals

Coderre, Emily L.; Smith, Jason F.; Van Heuven, Walter J.B.; Horowitz, Barry


Emily L. Coderre

Jason F. Smith

Barry Horowitz


The need to control multiple languages is thought to require domain-general executive control in bilinguals such that the executive control and language systems become interdependent. However, there has been no systematic investigation into how and where executive control and language processes overlap in the bilingual brain. If the concurrent recruitment of executive control during bilingual language processing is domain-general and extends to non-linguistic control, we hypothesize that regions commonly involved in language processing, linguistic control, and non-linguistic control may be selectively altered in bilinguals compared to monolinguals. A conjunction of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data from a flanker task with linguistic and non-linguistic distractors and a semantic categorization task showed functional overlap in the left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG) in bilinguals, whereas no overlap occurred in monolinguals. This research therefore identifies a neural locus of functional overlap of language and executive control in the bilingual brain.


Coderre, E. L., Smith, J. F., Van Heuven, W. J., & Horowitz, B. (2016). The functional overlap of executive control and language processing in bilinguals. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 19(3), 471-488. doi:10.1017/S1366728915000188

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 30, 2015
Online Publication Date Jun 5, 2015
Publication Date May 31, 2016
Deposit Date Jul 4, 2018
Print ISSN 1366-7289
Publisher Cambridge University Press (CUP)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 19
Issue 3
Pages 471-488
Public URL
Publisher URL