Bilingual individuals need effective mechanisms to prevent interference between their languages. Using event-related brain potentials (ERPs) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we present evidence for interference of phonological information from the nontarget language in German-Spanish bilinguals. A tacit picture-naming task was used in which bilinguals and monolinguals had to make speeded responses based on the first letter of the picture's name in the target language. In one condition, subjects were required to respond when the name began with a vowel and to withhold a response if it started with a consonant. Stimuli had been selected such that in half of the trials, the names in both languages necessitated the same response, whereas in the other half, responses were different for the two languages. For the bilinguals, the language in which the stimuli had to be named was changed after each block. Bilinguals showed phonological interference compared with monolingual performance, which was evident in their performance, ERPs, and fMRI patterns. Nonlanguage-specific brain areas such as the left middle prefrontal cortex were found to be crucial for the control of interference.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)