Heidlmayr, K., Doré-Mazars, K., Aparicio, X., & Isel, F. (2016). Multiple language use influences oculomotor task performance: Neurophysiological evidence of a shared substrate between language and motor control. PLoS One, 11(11): e0165029. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0165029.
In the present electroencephalographical study, we asked to which extent executive control processes are shared by both the language and motor domain. The rationale was to examine whether executive control processes whose efficiency is reinforced by the frequent use of a second language can lead to a benefit in the control of eye movements, i.e. a non-linguistic activity. For this purpose, we administrated to 19 highly proficient late French-German bilingual participants and to a control group of 20 French monolingual participants an antisaccade task, i.e. a specific motor task involving control. In this task, an automatic saccade has to be suppressed while a voluntary eye movement in the opposite direction has to be carried out. Here, our main hypothesis is that an advantage in the antisaccade task should be observed in the bilinguals if some properties of the control processes are shared between linguistic and motor domains. ERP data revealed clear differences between bilinguals and monolinguals. Critically, we showed an increased N2 effect size in bilinguals, thought to reflect better efficiency to monitor conflict, combined with reduced effect sizes on markers reflecting inhibitory control, i.e. cue-locked positivity, the target-locked P3 and the saccade-locked presaccadic positivity (PSP). Moreover, effective connectivity analyses (dynamic causal modelling; DCM) on the neuronal source level indicated that bilinguals rely more strongly on ACC-driven control while monolinguals rely on PFC-driven control. Taken together, our combined ERP and effective connectivity findings may reflect a dynamic interplay between strengthened conflict monitoring, associated with subsequently more efficient inhibition in bilinguals. Finally, L2 proficiency and immersion experience constitute relevant factors of the language background that predict efficiency of inhibition. To conclude, the present study provided ERP and effective connectivity evidence for domain-general executive control involvement in handling multiple language use, leading to a control advantage in bilingualism.