Bilingualism Modulates Attentional Processes of the Brain in Infancy : A Proposed Behavioral and Neurobiological Analysis
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Previous studies have highlighted possible cognitive alterations that stem from bilingualism. Dual-language management requires significant cognitive engagement, especially executive function mechanisms. Of these mechanisms, attentional control is necessary in order to track, maintain, switch, and suppress attention to specific linguistic cues in order to properly interact with the context at hand. The cognitive need for this attentional control is exhibited neurally, as linguistic and attentional networks functionally and anatomically overlap in the left frontal cortex bilinguals. In order to understand fully when and how bilingualism begins to modify attentional control, I will examine the infant brain and mind during language acquisition using the Adaptive Control Hypothesis. This proposed study investigates whether bilingual infants’ early language tracking abilities modify the neural underpinnings of attentional control. Using eye-tracking and function near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) methods, 90 bilingual and monolingual infants of 5 months, 7 months, and 10 months of age will be examined longitudinally while they complete tasks that evaluate dual-language switching and attention. This study would be the first to provide insight on the neural basis of attention and its close links to bilingual language tracking, as well as add to developmental theories of how experiences such as bilingualism influence cognitive and brain development.