An fNIRS Study: Benefits of Bilingual Attention on Literacy Acquisition
Authors:Maria Arredondo , Lourdes Delgado-Reyes, Ioulia Kovelman, Jaime Munoz-Velazquez, Teresa Satterfield
Mentor:Ioulia Kovelman, Assistant Professor of Psychology; Research Assistant Professor , University of Michigan
Children’s ability to pay selective attention to necessary information, while ignoring distracters, is one of the cornerstones of child development (Diamond, 2002). Attention is critical for successful reading acquisition (Morrison, 2010). Early bilingual exposure and the necessity to attend to and alternate between two languages is thought to improve children’s attention. Yet, little is known about the brain bases of this improvement and how it may relate to bilingual reading acquisition. In the present study we explore the brain bases of attention in young bilingual and monolingual children, and its relationship with reading acquisition. HYPOTHESIS. Relative to monolingual children, bilinguals will show greater recruitment of left-hemisphere regions, specifically dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), known to be important for the ability to attend and remember verbal information. METHOD. Bilingual Spanish-English and monolingual English children (ages 7-13) completed a child-friendly version of the Attentional Network Test (ANT-C), while we measured their brain activity with functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS). All participants also completed language and literacy measures during their visit. RESULTS. Bilingual children showed greater recruitment of the left DPLFC regions (verbal attention/memory brain region) and reduced recruitment of right DLPFC region, relative to monolinguals. The findings are consistent with prior studies that have shown greater left DLPFC recruitment in bilinguals during verbal attention tasks (Kovelman, 2008). Children’s performance during the ANT-C task was also a good predictor of children’s reading. The results suggest that early bilingual exposure enhances left (language) hemisphere participation in all types of attention processes, in language and beyond.