Identifying cortical first and second language sites via navigated transcranial magnetic stimulation of the left hemisphere in bilinguals

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The cortical areas that code for the first (L1) and second language (L2) in bilinguals have still not been sufficiently explored. Thus, this study investigated the left-hemispheric distribution of the L1 and L2 using repetitive navigated transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), in combination with an object-naming task, in 10 healthy, right-handed volunteers.

In particular, higher error rates (ERs) were observed in the L1, and there was a statistically significant difference between the ERs of L1 and L2 for no-response errors (L1 mean 11.9 ± 9.0%, L2 mean 6.5 ± 5.2%; p = 0.03). Furthermore, language-specific and shared cortical distribution patterns for the L1 and L2 were observed within the frontal, parietal, and temporal lobes with a trend towards higher occurrence of language-specific spots within posterior regions. Overall, the L1 presented a more stable pattern of language distribution compared to the L2.

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