Executive and language control in the multilingual brain

Kong, PH

Kong, A. P.-H., Abutalebi, J., Lam, K. S.-Y., & Weekes, B. Executive and language control in the multilingual brain. Behavioural Neurology. 2013 DOI: 10.3233/ben-120331

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Neuro imaging studies suggest that the neural network involved in language control may not be specific to bi-/multilingualism but part of a domain general executive control system. We report a trilingual case of a Cantonese (L1), English (L2), and Mandarin (L3) speaker, Dr. T, who sustained a brain injury at the age of 77-years causing lesions in the left frontal lobe and in the left temporo-parietal areas resulting in fluent aphasia. Dr. T’s executive functions were impaired according to a modified version of the Stroop color-word test and the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test performance was characterized by frequent perseveration errors. Dr. T demonstrated pathological language switching and mixing across her three languages. Code switching in Cantonese was more prominent in discourse production than confrontation naming. Our case suggests that voluntary control of spoken word production in trilingual speakers shares neural substrata in the frontal-basal ganglia system with domain-general executive control mechanisms. One prediction is that lesions to such a system would give rise to both pathological switching and impairments of executive functions in trilingual speakers.