“Neural overlap of L1 and L2 semantic representations across visual and auditory modalities: a decoding approach”

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Abstract

This study investigated whether brain activity in Dutch-French bilinguals during semantic access to concepts from one language could be used to predict neural activation during access to the same concepts from another language, in different language modalities/tasks. This was tested using multi-voxel pattern analysis (MVPA), within and across language comprehension (word listening and word reading) and production (picture naming). It was possible to identify the picture or word named, read or heard in one language (e.g. maan, meaning moon) based on the brain activity in a distributed bilateral brain network while, respectively, naming, reading or listening to the picture or word in the other language (e.g. lune). The brain regions identified differed across tasks. During picture naming, brain activation in the occipital and temporal regions allowed concepts to be predicted across languages. During word listening and word reading, across-language predictions were observed in the rolandic operculum and several motor-related areas (pre- and postcentral, the cerebellum). In addition, across-language predictions during reading were identified in regions typically associated with semantic processing (left inferior frontal, middle temporal cortex, right cerebellum and precuneus) and visual processing (inferior and middle occipital regions and calcarine sulcus). Furthermore, across modalities and languages, the left lingual gyrus showed semantic overlap across production and word reading. These findings support the idea of at least partially language- and modality-independent semantic neural representations.

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