Effects of early and late bilingualism on resting-state functional connectivity

Jonathan A. Berken, Xiaoqian Chai, Jen Kai Chen, Vincent L. Gracco, Denise Klein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Of current interest is how variations in early language experience shape patterns of functional connectivity in the human brain. In the present study, we compared simultaneous (two languages from birth) and sequential (second language learned after age 5 years) bilinguals using a seed-based resting-state MRI approach. We focused on the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) as our ROI, as recent studies have demonstrated both neurofunctional and neurostructural changes related to age of second language acquisition in bilinguals in this cortical area. Stronger functional connectivity was observed for simultaneous bilinguals between the left and right IFG, as well as between the inferior frontal gyrus and brain areas involved in language control, including the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, inferior parietal lobule, and cerebellum. Functional connectivity between the left IFG and the right IFG and right inferior parietal lobule was also significantly correlated with age of acquisition for sequential bilinguals; the earlier the second language was acquired, the stronger was the functional connectivity. In addition, greater functional connectivity between homologous regions of the inferior frontal gyrus was associated with reduced neural activation in the left IFG during speech production. The increased connectivity at rest and reduced neural activation during task performance suggests enhanced neural efficiency in this important brain area involved in both speech production and domain-general cognitive processing. Together, our findings highlight how the brain’s intrinsic functional patterns are influenced by the developmental timeline in which second language acquisition occurs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1165-1172
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 27 2016


  • Bilingualism
  • Brain development
  • Early experience
  • Inferior frontal gyrus
  • Language
  • Resting-state functional connectivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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