Neural networks for short-term memory for order differentiate high and low proficiency bilinguals
Majerus, S × Belayachi, S De Smedt, Bert Leclercq, A L Martinez, T Weekes, B Maquet, P #
NeuroImage vol:49 issue:4 pages:1698-1713
Short-term memory (STM) for order information, as compared to STM for item information, has been shown to be a critical determinant of language learning capacity. The present fMRI study asked whether the neural substrates of order STM can serve as markers for bilingual language achievement. Two groups of German-French bilinguals differing in second language proficiency were presented STM tasks probing serial order or item information. During order STM but not item STM tasks, the high proficiency group showed increased activation in the lateral orbito-frontal and the superior frontal gyri associated with updating and grouped rehearsal of serial order information. Functional connectivity analyses for order encoding showed a functional network involving the left IPS, the right IPS and the right superior cerebellum in the high proficiency group while the low proficiency group showed enhanced connectivity between the left IPS and bilateral superior temporal and temporo-parietal areas involved in item processing. The present data suggest that low proficiency bilinguals activate STM networks for order in a less efficient and differentiated way, and this may explain their poorer storage and learning capacity for verbal sequences.