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The effect of bilingualism on brain development from early childhood to young adulthood

Pliatsikas, C. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7093-1773, Meteyard, L. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1184-1908, Veríssimo, J., DeLuca, V. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2275-209X, Shattuck, K. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9227-4134 and Ullman, M. T. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9037-3537 (2020) The effect of bilingualism on brain development from early childhood to young adulthood. Brain Structure and Function. ISSN 1863-2661

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1007/s00429-020-02115-5

Abstract/Summary

Bilingualism affects the structure of the brain in adults, as evidenced by experience-dependent grey and white matter changes in brain structures implicated in language learning, processing, or control. However, limited evidence exists on how bilingualism may influence brain development. We examined the developmental patterns of both grey and white matter structures in a cross-sectional study of a large sample (n=711 for grey matter, n=637 for white matter) of bilingual and monolingual participants, aged 3-21 years. Metrics of grey matter (thickness, volume, surface area) and white matter (fractional anisotropy, mean diffusivity) were examined across 41 cortical and subcortical brain structures and 20 tracts, respectively. We used generalized additive modelling to analyze whether, how, and where the developmental trajectories of bilinguals and monolinguals might differ. Bilingual and monolingual participants manifested distinct developmental trajectories in both grey and white matter structures. As compared to monolinguals, bilinguals showed: a) more grey matter (less developmental loss) starting during late childhood and adolescence, mainly in frontal and parietal regions (particularly in the inferior frontal gyrus pars opercularis, superior frontal cortex, inferior and superior parietal cortex, and precuneus); and b) higher white matter integrity (greater developmental increase) starting during mid-late adolescence, specifically in striatal-inferior frontal fibers. The data suggest that there may be a developmental basis to the well-documented structural differences in the brain between bilingual and monolingual adults.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism (CeLM)
Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Centre for Integrative Neuroscience and Neurodynamics (CINN)
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Clinical Language Sciences
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Language and Cognition
ID Code:91678
Uncontrolled Keywords:Bilingualism, brain development, grey matter, white matter, generalized additive models
Publisher:Springer

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