Convergent cortical representation of semantic processing in bilinguals

Judy Illes, Wendy S. Francis, John E. Desmond, John D.E. Gabrieli, Gary H. Glover, Russell Poldrack, Christine J. Lee, Anthony D. Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examined whether semantic processes in two languages (English and Spanish) are mediated by a common neural system in fluent bilinguals who acquired their second language years after acquiring their first language. Functional magnetic resonance imaging was performed while bilingual participants made semantic and nonsemantic decisions about words in Spanish and English. There was greater activation for semantic relative to nonsemantic decisions in left and right frontal regions, with greater left frontal activation. The locations of activations were similar for both languages, and no differences were found when semantic decisions for English and Spanish words were compared directly. These results demonstrate a shared frontal lobe system for semantic analysis of the languages and are consistent with cognitive research on bilingualism indicating that the two languages of a bilingual person access a common semantic system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)347-363
Number of pages17
JournalBrain and Language
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Bilingualism
  • Semantic representation
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Speech and Hearing


Dive into the research topics of 'Convergent cortical representation of semantic processing in bilinguals'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this