Breaking News
October 22, 2018 - Targeting specific genomic mutation in breast cancer improves survival
October 22, 2018 - Loss of tumor protein p53 helps cancer cells grow in hostile environment
October 22, 2018 - IDT to demonstrate CRISPR expertise at European-focused events
October 22, 2018 - Breathing through the nose improves memory consolidation
October 22, 2018 - Recreational Marijuana Now Legal in Canada
October 22, 2018 - Scientists reveal drumming helps schoolchildren diagnosed with autism
October 22, 2018 - A stage IV cancer patient discusses what it means to live well with serious illness
October 22, 2018 - In Kids with Autism, Short Questionnaire May Detect GI Disorders
October 22, 2018 - Merck presents MK-1454 Phase 1 data for treatment of advanced solid tumors or lymphomas
October 22, 2018 - Aspirin may be effective in preventing blood clots after knee replacement
October 22, 2018 - Gilead Sciences presents Phase 3 results of filgotinib in biologic-experienced rheumatoid arthritis at 2018 ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting
October 22, 2018 - Immunotherapy with pembrolizumab extends survival in metastatic or recurrent head and neck cancer
October 22, 2018 - Health Tip: Keep Ticks Away
October 22, 2018 - Obsessive-compulsive disorder – Genetics Home Reference
October 22, 2018 - Researchers find disrupted functional connectivity in cerebellum of adults with HF-ASD
October 22, 2018 - Deciphera presents Phase 1 clinical results of DCC-2618 in patients with gastrointestinal stromal tumors
October 22, 2018 - Combination of Opdivo and Yervoy shows four-year survival benefits in patients with advanced melanoma
October 22, 2018 - Overcoming bottlenecks in early drug discovery with the power of sound
October 22, 2018 - Scientists discover genes that contribute to ADHD development
October 22, 2018 - Incyte announces Phase 2 FIGHT-202 trial data in patients with cholangiocarcinoma
October 22, 2018 - FDA approves update to Rituxan label to include information on treatment of rare forms of vasculitis
October 22, 2018 - At-home biofeedback therapy effective in relieving difficult-to-treat constipation
October 22, 2018 - Merck presents KEYNOTE-057 trial results for patients with high-risk non-muscle invasive bladder cancer
October 22, 2018 - People with periodontal disease less likely to reach healthy blood pressure ranges
October 22, 2018 - Phase III LONSURF study shows progression-free survival in patients with refractory metastatic gastric cancer
October 22, 2018 - Primary care doctors ‘not doing enough’ to curb STDs
October 22, 2018 - Pfizer announces PALOMA-3 trial results in patients with HR+, HER2- metastatic breast cancer
October 22, 2018 - ImmunoGen announces study results of platinum-resistant ovarian cancer therapy at ESMO 2018 Congress
October 22, 2018 - Study findings could set new standard of care for advanced anal cancer
October 22, 2018 - Erlotinib improves progression-free survival in EGFR mutated NSCLC
October 22, 2018 - Pain, insomnia, and depression often drive osteoarthritis patients to seek medical care
October 22, 2018 - The International Society of Refractive Surgery honors Vivior Chairman with Casebeer Award
October 22, 2018 - Multi-strain probiotic helps reduce chemotherapy-induced diarrhea in cancer patients
October 22, 2018 - Study shows potential of avelumab plus axitinib as new treatment option for patients with advanced RCC
October 22, 2018 - Vertex gets European CHMP positive opinion for KALYDECO to treat patients with cystic fibrosis
October 22, 2018 - Phase III trial reports positive results with HDAC inhibitor in advanced breast cancer patients
October 22, 2018 - Prostate radiotherapy improves survival in men with low burden of metastatic disease
October 22, 2018 - Duration of respiratory disturbances may better predict mortality risk from OSA
October 22, 2018 - Free phone app helps low-income obese patients to lose weight
October 22, 2018 - Immunotherapy with nivolumab and ipilimumab may improve survival in patients with MSI-high metastatic colorectal cancers
October 22, 2018 - FOTIVDA expected to be included in new ESMO guidelines for advanced renal cell carcinoma
October 22, 2018 - Compression Collar May Protect Brain of Female Soccer Players
October 22, 2018 - Technique visualizes neuron communication
October 22, 2018 - Advancement in medical imaging methods for health care
October 22, 2018 - Takeda presents vedolizumab phase 3 VISIBLE 1 trial results for treatment of moderately to severely active ulcerative colitis
October 22, 2018 - Immunotherapy increases survival in some patients with metastatic triple negative breast cancer
October 22, 2018 - Exelixis presents CABOSUN and METEOR trial results in patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma
October 22, 2018 - LYNPARZA Phase III SOLO-1 results show improved outcome for patients with advanced BRCA-mutated ovarian cancer
October 22, 2018 - Brainlab unveils ExacTrac Dynamic at ASTRO meeting in San Antonio, Texas
October 22, 2018 - Not exercising is worse than smoking, diabetes or heart disease finds study
October 22, 2018 - Shorter course of trastuzumab could be an option for women with HER2+ early breast cancer
October 22, 2018 - Map of Mouse Hippocampus Could Be Weapon Against Alzheimer’s
October 22, 2018 - Psychotropic polypharmacy is common in Alzheimer’s disease
October 22, 2018 - Texas A&M and UTA establish Texas Genomics Core Alliance
October 22, 2018 - Analyzing mouse’s potential as animal model of decision-making
October 22, 2018 - Radiotherapy can prolong survival in prostate cancer
October 22, 2018 - A genetic mutation involved in relapse
October 21, 2018 - Report reveals growing impact of cannabis on young people
October 21, 2018 - NSF awards $5 million grant to help scientists magnify societal impact of research
October 21, 2018 - Fertility Rates Down for Each Urbanization Level 2007 to 2017
October 21, 2018 - Genetically engineered 3-D human muscle transplant in a murine model
October 21, 2018 - Moms’ tight work schedules may affect their children’s sleep
October 21, 2018 - AHA: No Direct Link Between Preeclampsia and Cognitive Impairment, Study Finds
October 21, 2018 - Weight loss success linked with active self-control regions of the brain
October 21, 2018 - Scripps researchers successfully test potential new smoking-cessation treatment in rodents
October 21, 2018 - More accurate and less stressful way to measure a baby’s heartbeat
October 21, 2018 - Researchers show better cardiorespiratory fitness leads to longer life
October 21, 2018 - Healthy candies for diabetic patients
October 21, 2018 - Environment impact of microplastics remains unclear
October 21, 2018 - Antibiotics for appendicitis? Surgery often not needed
October 21, 2018 - AHA and AMA recognize more than 800 medical practices, health systems for blood pressure control
October 21, 2018 - Scientists obtain clearest ever image of Ebola virus protein
October 21, 2018 - Study reveals connection between two proteins known to be hyperactive in cancer
October 21, 2018 - Gabapentin Beats Pregabalin for Chronic Sciatica
October 21, 2018 - Cosmetic surgeons offering incomplete information for breast augmentation customers
October 21, 2018 - Chronic sleep disruption in early adult life accelerates AD-related tau pathology
October 21, 2018 - Take 10 for Mindfulness – Drugs.com MedNews
October 21, 2018 - Length of breathing disruption in OSA may be better predictor of mortality risk
October 21, 2018 - ApoE4 gene linked with chronic inflammation increases risk for Alzheimer’s disease
October 21, 2018 - Mother-daughter conflict associated with suicide risk in abused adolescent girls
Study sheds new light on how bilinguals process language

Study sheds new light on how bilinguals process language

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print
Megan Zirnstein is a psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist at UC Riverside. Credit: I. Pittalwala, UC Riverside.

Research led by a psychologist at the University of California, Riverside, shows that bilinguals regulate, or suppress, their native language when reading in a second language.

Many in media and in science often assume that reading or speaking in a second language—one that has been learned later in life than the native or first language—is always going to be difficult.

But a study led by psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist Megan Zirnstein shows that bilinguals who are highly proficient in their second language, such as international students who have come to the United States to pursue higher education, can not only overcome the difficulty that being immersed in their non-native language imposes, but also engage in reading strategies in their second language just like their monolingual peers.

“When we account for the challenges that proficient bilinguals must face due to knowing more than one language and being exposed to variable language input, we see evidence in brain activity that some proficient second-language readers can actively predict the meaning of upcoming words, and even quickly adapt when their predictions are wrong, just like their monolingual peers,” said Zirnstein, an assistant research psychologist working in the laboratory of Judith F. Kroll, a distinguished professor of psychology at UCR. “In order to explore how bilingualism might impact cognitive and brain health later in life, we first need to understand what cognitive and environmental pressures bilinguals face when using language every day.”

The study, published in the journal Cognition, highlights the need to acknowledge the variability and diversity inherent in bilingual communities ­— an approach that has the potential to significantly alter conceptions of what it means to use language.

Zirnstein and her colleagues tested 24 English monolinguals and 28 Chinese-English bilinguals in their study. Participants ­— all highly proficient in English—were students at Pennsylvania State University, where the research was performed. Each participant was given sentences to read in English and tested for prediction skills ­— that is, how much the participant expected a particular word to come next in the sentence. For example, if someone read, “She had a great voice, so we knew she would one day become a famous—” it would be logical to expect the word “singer” to appear next. This strategy can help readers, or it can lead to difficulty if the ending is changed to unexpected words such as “actress.”

The students hailed from similar backgrounds and were recruited at similar times during the semester to control for bias. Monolingual and bilinguals read sentences in English one word at a time on a screen while their brain responses were recorded using electroencephalography (EEG). The sentences varied in the predictability of an upcoming word, which could be expected, like “singer” in the above example, or unexpected, as in “actress.” These words should lead to different effects in brain activity, especially for unexpected prediction errors.

“We were interested in examining the language performance and brain activity of bilinguals to see how, with all the pressures of English around them at university, they were able to simultaneously maintain their use of Mandarin (their native language) and engage in highly proficient second language reading,” Zirnstein said. “Questions we were interested in addressing include: How do bilinguals maintain use of their languages? How is this ability impacted by the language(s) they are immersed in? And how does this impact something quite difficult, like predicting words during second-language reading? Bilinguals often find themselves immersed in different cultures and language contexts. We want to understand how this relates to reading comprehension.”

Zirnstein explained it was widely believed bilinguals would be less likely to engage in prediction in the second language. There is also much debate about the extent to which lifelong bilingualism impacts brain and cognitive health, with some research demonstrating a protective effect of bilingualism in older adulthood.

Megan Zirnstein (left) watches as a participant prepares to take a test designed to evaluate an individual’s ability to inhibit motor responses, a skill that she demonstrates can support recovery from prediction error during first and second language reading. Credit: I. Pittalwala, UC Riverside.

“That’s what motivated our research,” she said. “In order to begin to understand how bilingualism can impact cognition and health, we have to first understand how bilinguals use their languages every day.”

The researchers found that the monolinguals in their study showed sensitivity to prediction error when they encountered unexpected words; for bilinguals this effect was more complex. The researchers also found that the bilinguals’ ability to predict in the second language was determined by how well they were able to regulate or control their native language, which could have caused interference and made reading more difficult. After this was taken into account, brain activity in response to prediction error was associated with both monolinguals’ and bilinguals’ performance on a motor inhibition task.

The study is the first to show that control ability on this type of task can help readers overcome prediction errors, and that it can be demonstrated across people who come from very different kinds of linguistic backgrounds.

“The ability to regulate the native language when immersed in a second language environment can support the prediction process when reading in the non-native language,” Zirnstein said. “We argue in our paper that the mechanisms engaged during prediction in native and non-native languages are fundamentally the same, and that what differs for bilinguals are the additional demands imposed by their language experience and language use.”

She explained that language regulation (suppressing or reducing interference of the native or dominant language and bringing it up again when the non-native language is not being used) plays an important role in how bilinguals comprehend and speak their languages.

“Using production fluency measures, we were able to capture how capable the bilinguals were at bringing the activation of their dominant Mandarin up and down in a way that benefitted them when using English,” Zirnstein said. “Their ability to do this is crucial for freeing up resources to be able to predict when reading in English, their second language.

“We went in thinking second-language readers may not be able to predict the way monolinguals do,” she added. “But when we take into account that some bilinguals are very skilled at negotiating the environmental and linguistic pressures that are exerted on them, we can see that their ability and brain activity in their second language mimics that of monolinguals. In other words, some bilinguals can comprehend in their second language just as well as monolinguals do.”

There is some controversy about whether the use of two or more languages confers advantages to bilinguals’ minds and brains.

“This new study suggests that bilinguals acquire the skills to navigate the complexity of the language environment in ways that may enable them to solve basic language problems,” Kroll said. “Those skills go beyond resolving simple conflict between the two languages and may hold important consequences more generally. To understand those consequences, this work shows that we need to understand how bilinguals use language.”


Explore further:
Language juggling rewires bilingual brain

More information:
Megan Zirnstein et al. Cognitive control ability mediates prediction costs in monolinguals and bilinguals, Cognition (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2018.03.001

Journal reference:
Cognition

Provided by:
University of California – Riverside

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles