language mapping and aphasia

Dag Stenberg stenberg at cc.helsinki.fi
Thu Dec 11 08:07:08 EST 1997


Eugene Leitl <Eugene.Leitl at lrz.uni-muenchen.de> wrote:
> I cannot remember the source, but there has been a fMRI study of
> multilingual persons quite recently. The foci partly overlapped, yet their
> centres were spatially distinct. 

Kim KH.  Relkin NR.  Lee KM.  Hirsch J.
Distinct cortical areas associated with native and second languages.
Nature.  388(6638):171-4, 1997 Jul 10.

Abstract
  The ability to acquire and use several languages selectively is a unique
  and essential human capacity. Here we investigate the fundamental question
  of how multiple languages are represented in a human brain. We applied
  functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to determine the spatial
  relationship between native and second languages in the human cortex, and
  show that within the frontal-lobe language-sensitive regions (Broca's
  area), second languages acquired in adulthood ('late' bilingual subjects)
  are spatially separated from native languages. However, when acquired
  during the early language acquisition stage of development ('early'
  bilingual subjects), native and second languages tend to be represented in
  common frontal cortical areas. In both late and early bilingual subjects,
  the temporal-lobe language-sensitive regions (Wernicke's area) also show
  effectively little or no separation of activity based on the age of 
  language acquisition. This discovery of language-specific regions in
  Broca's area advances our understanding of the cortical representation
  that underlies multiple language functions.

Dag Stenberg

> In "The Engine of Reason.." (1995), Paul Churchland
> states that a brain lesion can render a bilingual
> patient aphasic in one language, unchanged in the
> other. This implies different areas of the brain for
> different languages. But what of a multilingual person?
> Does the brain keep allocating new memory chunks for
> each language?  It seems more likely that they'd be
> integrated in some way.  Any comments?


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