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      Cognitive gains in 7-month-old bilingual infants.

      Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

      Acoustic Stimulation, Cognition, physiology, Cues, Female, Humans, Infant, Male, Multilingualism, Photic Stimulation

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          Abstract

          Children exposed to bilingual input typically learn 2 languages without obvious difficulties. However, it is unclear how preverbal infants cope with the inconsistent input and how bilingualism affects early development. In 3 eye-tracking studies we show that 7-month-old infants, raised with 2 languages from birth, display improved cognitive control abilities compared with matched monolinguals. Whereas both monolinguals and bilinguals learned to respond to a speech or visual cue to anticipate a reward on one side of a screen, only bilinguals succeeded in redirecting their anticipatory looks when the cue began signaling the reward on the opposite side. Bilingual infants rapidly suppressed their looks to the first location and learned the new response. These findings show that processing representations from 2 languages leads to a domain-general enhancement of the cognitive control system well before the onset of speech.

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          Most cited references 12

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          Cognitive Complexity and Attentional Control in the Bilingual Mind

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            Effect of bilingualism on cognitive control in the Simon task: evidence from MEG.

            The present study used magneto-encephalography (MEG) to determine the neural correlates of the bilingual advantage previously reported for behavioral measures in conflict tasks. Bilingual Cantonese-English, bilingual French-English, and monolingual English speakers, performed the Simon task in the MEG. Reaction times were faster for congruent than for incongruent trials, and the Cantonese group was faster than the other two groups, which did not differ from each other. Analyses of the MEG data using synthetic aperture magnetometry (SAM) and partial last squares (PLS) showed that the same pattern of activity, involving signal changes in left and medial prefrontal areas, characterized all three groups. Correlations between activated regions and reaction times, however, showed that the two bilingual groups demonstrated faster reaction times with greater activity in superior and middle temporal, cingulate, and superior and inferior frontal regions, largely in the left hemisphere. The monolinguals demonstrated faster reaction times with activation in middle frontal regions. The interpretation is that the management of two language systems led to systematic changes in frontal executive functions.
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              Language discrimination by human newborns and by cotton-top tamarin monkeys.

              Humans, but no other animal, make meaningful use of spoken language. What is unclear, however, is whether this capacity depends on a unique constellation of perceptual and neurobiological mechanisms or whether a subset of such mechanisms is shared with other organisms. To explore this problem, parallel experiments were conducted on human newborns and cotton-top tamarin monkeys to assess their ability to discriminate unfamiliar languages. A habituation-dishabituation procedure was used to show that human newborns and tamarins can discriminate sentences from Dutch and Japanese but not if the sentences are played backward. Moreover, the cues for discrimination are not present in backward speech. This suggests that the human newborns' tuning to certain properties of speech relies on general processes of the primate auditory system.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                19365071
                2672482
                10.1073/pnas.0811323106

                Chemistry

                Acoustic Stimulation, Cognition, physiology, Cues, Female, Humans, Infant, Male, Multilingualism, Photic Stimulation

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