Functional MR Imaging Study of Language-Related Differences in Bilingual Cerebellar Activation

Jay Pillai, Jerry D. Allison, Sankar Sethuraman, Julio M. Araque, Dharma Thiruvaiyaru, Claro B. Ison, David W. Loring, Thomas Lavin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Reports in the monolingual literature suggest that the cerebellum has an important role in language processing. The purpose of this study was to determine whether bilingual cerebellar functional MR imaging (fMRI) activation differs during the performance of comparable tasks in subjects' primary and secondary languages. METHODS: Eight bilingual, right-handed individuals underwent echo-planar fMRI at 1.5 T. They performed semantic (noun-verb association) and phonological (rhyming) tasks in Spanish (primary language) and English (secondary language). Individual and group functional data-sets were analyzed using Statistical Parametric Mapping software (SPM99; P <.001 with a 10-voxel spatial extent threshold) and overlaid on T1-weighted anatomic images normalized to a standard (Montreal Neurologic Institute) space. Analysis of variance was performed on laterality indices derived from voxel counts in cerebellar regions of interest (ROIs). Subtraction of group-averaged normalized results from the combined Spanish tasks from the combined English tasks was also performed within SPM99 (P <.001 activation threshold). RESULTS: Significantly greater lateralilty indices were noted in the English tasks than in the Spanish tasks (mean Spanish LI, 0.3286; mean English LI, 0.5141 [P = .0143]). Overall, more robust activation was seen in the English tasks than in the Spanish tasks. Areas of significantly greater activation existed in the English tasks as compared with the Spanish tasks; these areas were more prominent in the left cerebellar hemisphere. CONCLUSION: Although both English and Spanish language tasks demonstrate left cerebellar dominance, English tasks demonstrate greater left hemispheric lateralization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)523-532
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Neuroradiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2004
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology

Cite this

Pillai, J., Allison, J. D., Sethuraman, S., Araque, J. M., Thiruvaiyaru, D., Ison, C. B., ... Lavin, T. (2004). Functional MR Imaging Study of Language-Related Differences in Bilingual Cerebellar Activation. American Journal of Neuroradiology, 25(4), 523-532.