A scientific research links bilingualism to a better effectiveness in executive functions
The research group of Neuropsychology and Functional Neuroimaging of the University Jaume I de Castellón (UJI), directed by Professor of Base Psychology, César Ávila Rivera, found out that bilingual people are quicker and more efficient in certain tasks for which they should use executive functions due to a different form of brain control, reported the Academic institution.
The study led by these research group of the public University of Castellon, which also involved two professors from the University of Pompeu Fabra, showed that bilingual people use the left inferior frontal lobe, Broca's area, to react to stimuli requiring executive functions - like sorting forms by color or shape - while monolingual people use the right lobe.
The left part of Broca's area, where the switching between languages takes place, is located in the frontal left hemisphere of the brain and is responsible for language processing tasks such as speech production and, in the case of bilinguals, control of the language used. Several behavior studies stressed this difference in executive functions between bilingual and monolingual, but so far, no neural description was available.
'The discovery is important because it shows an unknown aspect of bilingualism, which goes beyond linguistics, that bilingual people are more efficient in responding to certain stimuli', explains researcher Cesar Avila, who ensures that the study shows that bilingualism does not only have effects on the brain at a linguistic level, but also works differently, emphasizing the importance of introducing language at an early age because it produces cognitive benefits.
To conduct the study, scientists could count on the participation of volunteer students from the Universitat Jaume I and on the collaboration of the Castellón General Hospital, where the functional magnetic resonance imaging took place. The sample was composed of two extreme groups: on one hand, young people who have developed bilingualism (Valencian and Castilian) from an early age and on the other, young monolingual Castilian from other Spanish speaking regions or countries.
The research will be published soon in the prestigious journal NeuroImage, a publication that features articles related to brain functions, under the title 'Bridging language and attention: Brain Basis of the impact of bilingualism on cognitive control'.
This research is part of a larger project Consolider-Ingenio 2010 program called 'Bilingualism and cognitive neuroscience', a consortium of four Spanish universities (Jaume I, Pompeu Fabra, Universitat de Barcelona and University of the Basque Country) that is aimed at studying bilingualism, in particular its brain basis.
Now, the group continues the researches to get replicas of this pattern with more complex tasks such as using linguistic terms because 'if we think the process is evolutive and we demonstrate it in similar tasks, we can strongly confirm the results we have so far' concludes Professor of Basic Psychology.