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Losing control of your languages: A case study

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Bilingual speakers are usually quite good at restricting their lexicalization output to the desired language while preventing all sorts of language intrusions from the language not in use. However, brain damage can affect these abilities of language control, leading to striking and flagrant linguistic behaviours, such as pathological language mixing (pLM) and pathological switching (pLS). In this paper we report the performance of a Catalan-Spanish bilingual individual (R.R.T.) who, due to a neuroinflammatory disease and subcortical lesions, shows pLS. We tested R.R.T. in several tasks of language production and control, such as picture naming (objects and actions), word translation, blocked naming, and language switching task. R.R.T. was also tested in executive control (EC) tasks, such as task switching and a flanker task. We found several interesting results. First, cross-language intrusions were present much more frequently when R.R.T. was asked to speak in her first (and dominant) language (Catalan) than when she was asked to do so in the nondominant language (Spanish). Second, the results provide evidence suggesting that damage to certain subcortical structures may lead to problems in controlling the language output during verbalization in bilingual speakers. Third, we observed that R.R.T. seemed to show more difficulties in language control with verbs. Fourth, R.R.T. showed impaired performance compared to controls in both task switching and a flanker task. The results are discussed in relation to other findings of pLM and pLS in published single-case reports and in relation to EC deficits.
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... Research with pathological populations performing these tasks has reported useful insights on how BLC works. For instance, Calabria et al. [22] administered a cued language switching task to a patient with pathological language switching, with results showing that the patient's performance on the task was exactly the same as her performance in the more naturalistic connected speech condition. That is, the patient exhibited cross-language intrusions from their non-dominant into their dominant language in the switching task, just as they did when they were required to describe complex pictures or when they engaged in normal conversation. ...
... Initially, we had predicted that patients with aphasia would perform fewer switches than controls when given the option to choose their language, based on previous findings showing the presence of control deficits in BWAs [57,58], especially for conflict monitoring [32]. Although there are cases of pathological and uncontrolled switching in patients with brain lesions (e.g., [22,24,25,27,31,59,60]), our BWA group demonstrates that not all BWA patients are impaired in their ability to voluntarily switch between their languages. One possible explanation for this is that the patients included in this study were all considered to have mild to moderate aphasia and did not report significantly higher rates of unintended or involuntary switching behavior on the BSWQ compared to controls. ...
... Within error type distributions, the presence of more cross-language errors in the single naming condition is potentially an indication of some BLC deficits. Reminiscent of how patients with pathological language switching (e.g., [22]) perform but to a lesser degree, certain BWAs were unable to restrict the lexicalization to that specific language during the task and suffered intrusions (whether auto-corrected or not) from the unintended language. However, these patients did not have difficulties in proactive control as they were able to maintain the two languages with no mixing effects when they named items in the dual-language situation. ...
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As studies of bilingual language control (BLC) seek to explore the underpinnings of bilinguals' abilities to juggle two languages, different types of language switching tasks have been used to uncover switching and mixing effects and thereby reveal what proactive and reactive control mechanisms are involved in language switching. Voluntary language switching tasks, where a bilingual participant can switch freely between their languages while naming, are being utilized more often due to their greater ecological validity compared to cued switching paradigms. Because this type of task had not yet been applied to language switching in bilingual patients, our study sought to explore voluntary switching in bilinguals with aphasia (BWAs) as well as in healthy bilinguals. In Experiment 1, we replicated previously reported results of switch costs and mixing benefits within our own bilingual population of Catalan-Spanish bilinguals. With Experiment 2, we compared both the performances of BWAs as a group and as individuals against control group performance. Results illustrated a complex picture of language control abilities, indicating varying degrees of association and dissociation between factors of BLC. Given the diversity of impairments in BWAs' language control mechanisms, we highlight the need to examine BLC at the individual level and through the lens of theoretical cognitive control frameworks in order to further parse out how bilinguals regulate their language switching.
... Unfortunately, there is no report of the performance of this participant in EF tasks. Calabria et al. (2014) reported on a participant without aphasia but with Multiple Sclerosis, who also demonstrated suspected pathological switching. She was a highly educated 44-year-old Catalan-Spanish bilingual whose first language was Catalan and who had started learning Spanish at the age of 5. ...
... The participant of Fabbro, Skrap, and Aglioti (2000), who also exhibited some clear instances of pathological switching, showed defects in verbal inhibition. The participants of Kong et al. (2014) and Calabria et al. (2014) showed problems in both linguistic and nonlinguistic tasks requiring cognitive control; however, the communicative situation of the testing was (at least to some extent) bilingual and they could thus not be with certainty categorised as cases of pathological switching by the present criterion. While there is a lot of uncertainty with these few cases, it appears that pathological switching/mixing can sometimes be accompanied by rather well-functioning nonverbal EFs (Mariën et al. 2005;Leemann et al. 2007) but perhaps not as likely by intact verbal EFs (Fabbro, Skrap, and Aglioti 2000;Mariën et al. 2005). ...
... Unfortunately, there is no report of the performance of this participant in EF tasks. Calabria et al. (2014) reported on a participant without aphasia but with Multiple Sclerosis, who also demonstrated suspected pathological switching. She was a highly educated 44-year-old Catalan-Spanish bilingual whose first language was Catalan and who had started learning Spanish at the age of 5. ...
... The participant of Fabbro, Skrap, and Aglioti (2000), who also exhibited some clear instances of pathological switching, showed defects in verbal inhibition. The participants of Kong et al. (2014) and Calabria et al. (2014) showed problems in both linguistic and nonlinguistic tasks requiring cognitive control; however, the communicative situation of the testing was (at least to some extent) bilingual and they could thus not be with certainty categorised as cases of pathological switching by the present criterion. While there is a lot of uncertainty with these few cases, it appears that pathological switching/mixing can sometimes be accompanied by rather well-functioning nonverbal EFs (Mariën et al. 2005;Leemann et al. 2007) but perhaps not as likely by intact verbal EFs (Fabbro, Skrap, and Aglioti 2000;Mariën et al. 2005). ...
... In order to evaluate LG's non-verbal executive ability, we assessed non-verbal tasks from previous studies and contrasted tasks requiring low and high executive demand (Calabria et al., 2014;Hoffman et al., 2009Hoffman et al., , 2011Hoffman et al., , 2012Hoffman, Jefferies, et al., 2013;Jefferies et al., 2008;Jefferies & Lambon Ralph, 2006;Thompson & Jefferies, 2013). The digit cancellation task (Della Sala et al., 1992) is a three-step task which consists of cancelling a target digit, then two targets, and finally three target digits in a panel of numbers. ...
... Unlike previous cases displaying a domain-general executive deficit affecting verbal and nonverbal tasks indiscriminately (Calabria et al., 2014;Hoffman et al., 2012;Thompson & Jefferies, 2013;Vuong & Martin, 2015), LG displayed an impairment specific to verbal tasks requiring executive control to be performed while sparing capacities in non-verbal tasks. ...
Article
Executive control is recruited for language processing, particularly in complex linguistic tasks. Although the issue of the existence of an executive control specific to language is still an open issue, there is much evidence that executively-demanding language tasks rely on domain-general rather than language-specific executive resources. Here, we addressed this issue by assessing verbal and non-verbal executive capacities in LG, an aphasic patient after a stroke. First, we showed that LG’s performance was spared in all non-verbal tasks regardless of the executive demands. Second, by contrasting conditions of high and low executive demand in verbal tasks, we showed that LG was only impaired in verbal task with high executive demand. The performance dissociation between low and high executive demand conditions in the verbal domain, not observed in the non-verbal domain, shows that verbal executive control partly dissociates from non-verbal executive control. This language-specific executive disorder suggests that some executive processes might be language-specific.
... In a final study, we examined the capacity to switch between languages. We used a language switching task employed in previous studies of bilingual healthy participants (Calabria, Hernández, Branzi, & Costa, 2012;Calabria, Branzi, Marne, Hernández, & Costa, 2015) and pathological populations (Calabria, Marne, Romero-Pinel, Juncadella, & Costa, in two language -English and Catalanand examined the number of errors as an index of control failure (Calabria et al., 2014). This task was employed to test the role of the ATL in language switching. ...
... In line with these observations, TC could perform the language switching task largely without errors, suggesting the ATLs are not a critical region for this form of control. In contrast, an earlier study found a very different pattern in a bilingual patient with poor bilingual language control control deficits but without semantic memory impairment (Calabria et al., 2014). This result adds neuropsychological evidence that at least ATLs are not crucial for the control of the two languages in bilinguals and it supports the dissociation between semantic control and bilingual language control (for evidence that the semantic interference is blind to language in bilinguals, see Runnqvist, Strijkers, Alario, & Costa, 2012). ...
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Background: Patients with the semantic variant of Primary Progressive Aphasia (svPPA) offer a unique opportunity to study the relationship between lexical retrieval and semantics, as they are characterised by progressive degradation of central semantic representations. However, there are few studies of how lexical retrieval across languages is affected in multilingual speakers. Aims: We examine the impact of conceptual degradation in a trilingual patient (TC) with svPPA, to investigate whether the semantic memory breakdown affects her three languages similarly (English-Catalan-Spanish) in different linguistic tasks. Methods & Procedures: We followed up her performance over one year in several tasks including: (a) naming with or without semantic interference contexts, (b) word translation, (c) word- and sentence-picture matching, (d) associative semantic priming and (e) language switching. Outcomes & Results: There was significant response consistency between languages in the items that were relatively well-known and more semantically degraded, at least in a standard picture naming task. The patient’s sentence-to-picture matching did not show progressive deterioration in any language. However, some aspects of lexical retrieval showed language-dependency, as indexed by different patterns of performance in semantically-blocked cyclical naming task across languages. Conclusions: These data suggest that while degradation of central semantic representations affects all languages, this deficit can be amplified or ameliorated by the strength of conceptual to lexical mappings, which varies across languages.
... Problems in BLC may lead to rather striking linguistic behavior, such as pathological language mixing and pathological language switching (Abutalebi, Miozzo, & Cappa, 2000;Aglioti, Beltramello, Girardi, & Fabbro, 1996;Aglioti & Fabbro, 1993;Ansaldo, Saidi, & Ruiz, 2010;Calabria, Marne, Romero-Pinel, Juncadella, & Costa, 2014;Fabbro, Skrap, & Aglioti, 2000;Garcia-Caballero et al., 2007;Leemann, Laganaro, Schwitter, & Schnider, 2007;Mariën, Abutalebi, Engelborghs, & De Deyn, 2005). The former refers to the uncontrolled mixing of elements of two languages within a single utterance, and the latter entails involuntarily alternating languages across different utterances (Ansaldo & Marcotte, 2007). ...
... Moreover, considering that the patient had a lesion over his left frontal lobe, the researchers concluded that this was an area common to both BLC and EC. Similar results were found for a Catalan-Spanish bilingual patient (R.M.) who Calabria et al. (2014) have noted for the overlapping of deficits between domain-general EC and BLC. Besides the neuropsychological and linguistic assessments of spontaneous speech, these authors have also evaluated switching abilities with a language-switching task and non-linguistic task switching. ...
... Problems in BLC may lead to rather striking linguistic behaviour, such as pathological language mixing and pathological language switching (Abutalebi et al. 2000;Aglioti et al. 1996;Aglioti and Fabbro 1993;Ansaldo et al. 2010;Calabria et al. 2014;Fabbro et al. 2000;Garcia-Caballero et al. 2007;Kong et al. 2014;Leemann et al. 2007;Mariën et al. 2005). The former refers to the uncontrolled mixing of elements of two languages within a single utterance, and the latter entails involuntarily alternating languages across different utterances (Ansaldo and Marcotte 2007). ...
... Moreover, considering that the patient had a lesion over his left frontal lobe, the researchers concluded that this was an area common to both BLC and EC. Similar results were found for a Catalan-Spanish bilingual patient (R.M.) who Calabria et al. (2014) have noted for the overlapping of deficits between domain-general EC and BLC. Besides the neuropsychological and linguistic assessments of spontaneous speech, these authors have also evaluated switching abilities with a language-switching task and non-linguistic task switching. ...
Article
This chapter reviews current knowledge about the relationship between language control and executive control (EC) mechanisms in bilingual speakers. The most common strategy to assess the relationship between the two domains of control is to compare people's performance on control tasks that involve linguistic and non‐linguistic processes. The chapter reviews studies that have tested bilingual language control (BLC) and EC in the same population of bilingual speakers by focusing on neuroimaging data and cognitive and language deficits following brain damage. One critical point in studying the cross‐talk between language and EC in bilinguals is the complexity of the concept of control in these two domains. In recent years, the issue of EC deficits amongst bilingual patients with aphasia has attracted interest, especially amongst speech pathology researchers. In sum, aphasia studies that have explored the cross‐talk between BLC and EC have yielded mixed findings, with some indications favouring an incomplete overlap between the two systems.
... We expected that the forced switching condition would incur processing costs for heritage bilinguals, given that it (a) is forced, (b) involves switching between languages of different proficiency levels, (c) involves the nondomain aligned language, and (d) is a dual language context; thus costs, if existent at the production level in utterances, could be observed. This was based on prior research indicating switching costs are higher among bilinguals with greater proficiency imbalance (Bobb & Wodniecka, 2013;Kaufmann et al., 2018) versus highly skilled bilinguals who regularly use both languages Costa & Santesteban, 2004), that forced switching is more costly than voluntary switching (Blanco-Elorrieta & Pylkkänen, 2017;Gollan et al., 2014;Jevtovic et al., 2019), and that switching in production may require domain-general control networks (Blanco-Elorrieta & Pylkkänen, 2016; this finding is not unanimous, see e.g., Calabria et al. 2014 and2015 showing that language and nonlinguistic switching have different underlying mechanisms). ...
Article
Research using single-word paradigms has established that forced language switching incurs processing costs for some bilinguals, yet, less research has addressed this phenomenon at the utterance level or considered real-world applications. The current study examined the impacts of forced language switching on spoken output and stress using a simulated virtual meeting. Twenty Spanish–English heritage bilinguals responded to general work-oriented questions in monolingual English (control) or language-switching (experimental) conditions. Responses were analyzed for mean length of utterance (MLU) and type-token-ratio (TTR). Multilevel modeling revealed an interaction effect of Condition (control vs. experimental) and question order on MLU, such that participants in the experimental condition produced significantly shorter utterances by the end of the task. Participants also had significantly lower lexical variation (TTR) overall in the experimental than the control condition. A 2 × 2 ANOVA revealed a significant effect of Condition and an interaction of Task (pre- vs. posttask) and Condition, such that participants in the control condition reported significantly lower stress after the activity. Results demonstrated the impact of a forced switching condition on production at the utterance level. Findings have implications for theory and scenarios in which heritage bilinguals are asked to use multiple languages in the workplace.
... Hence, virtually all Catalan speakers are bilinguals of Catalan and Spanish. Due to the particularities of this population-they are highly proficient bilinguals who commonly acquire both languages during early childhood and live immersed in both languages-it has been the focus of interest of a large number of psycholinguistic studies dealing with topics including bilingual memory (e.g., Ferré, Sánchez-Casas, & Guasch, 2006;Guasch, Sánchez-Casas, Ferré, & García-Albea, 2008Moldovan, Demestre, Ferré, & Sánchez-Casas, 2016); parallel activation of languages in bilinguals (e.g., Comesaña et al., 2015;Guasch, Ferré, & Haro, 2017); emotional processing in the two languages (e.g., Ferré, Anglada-Tort, & Guasch, 2018;Ferré, García, Fraga, Sánchez-Casas, & Molero, 2010;Ferré, Sánchez-Casas, & Fraga, 2013); the linguistic, cognitive, and neural consequences of bilingualism (e.g., Branzi, Calabria, Boscarino, & Costa, 2016;Calabria, Branzi, Marne, Hernández, & Costa, 2015;Kandel et al., 2016;Martin et al., 2013;Rodríguez-Pujadas et al., 2013); and language deterioration in demented bilinguals (e.g., Calabria et al., 2017;Calabria, Marne, Romero-Pinel, Juncadella, & Costa, 2014), among others. ...
Article
SUBTLEX-CAT is a word frequency and contextual diversity database for Catalan, obtained from a 278-million-word corpus based on subtitles supplied from broadcast Catalan television. Like all previous SUBTLEX corpora, it comprises subtitles from films and TV series. In addition, it includes a wider range of TV shows (e.g., news, documentaries, debates, and talk shows) than has been included in most previous databases. Frequency metrics were obtained for the whole corpus, on the one hand, and only for films and fiction TV series, on the other. Two lexical decision experiments revealed that the subtitle-based metrics outperformed the previously available frequency estimates, computed from either written texts or texts from the Internet. Furthermore, the metrics obtained from the whole corpus were better predictors than the ones obtained from films and fiction TV series alone. In both experiments, the best predictor of response times and accuracy was contextual diversity.
... Moreover, the crucial role of this area in language control has been demonstrated in lesion and brain stimulation studies. That is, electrical stimulation of (Wang, Wang, Jiang, Wang, & Wu, 2012) and brain damage to the left caudate generate pathological language switching and mixing (Abutalebi, Miozzo, & Cappa, 2000;Aglioti, Beltramello, Girardi, & Fabbro, 1996;Aglioti & Fabbro, 1993;Ansaldo, Saidi, & Ruiz, 2010;Calabria, Marne, Romero-Pinel, Juncadella, & Costa, 2014;Fabbro, Skrap, & Aglioti, 2000;Garcia-Caballero et al., 2007;Kong, Abutalebi, Lam, & Weekes, 2014;Leemann, Laganaro, Schwitter, & Schnider, 2007;Mariën, Abutalebi, Engelborghs, & De Deyn, 2005). ...
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The present study investigated language inhibition and cross-language interference as two possible mechanisms of bilingual language control (BLC) that can be affected by Huntington’s disease (HD), a neurodegenerative disease (ND) affecting the striatum. To this aim, the study explored the performance of pre-symptomatic and early-stage HD patients in two experimental tasks meant to elicit cross-language interference and language inhibition, including a Stroop task and a language switching task. The results revealed dissociations between these two mechanisms, indicating that language activation or inhibition is related to HD pathology while cross-language interference is not. Switch costs in HD patients were greater than controls in low-demand control conditions of language switching (longer preparation time), while Stroop effects were similar between the two groups of participants. This result was interpreted as a difficulty in overcoming the excessive inhibition applied to non-target language. The BLC processes related to the striatum and subcortical structures are discussed.
Chapter
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Much effort has been made to understand the role of attention in perception; much less effort has been placed on the role attention plays in the control of action. Our goal in this chapter is to account for the role of attention in action, both when performance is automatic and when it is under deliberate conscious control. We propose a theoretical framework structured around the notion of a set of active schemas, organized according to the particular action sequences of which they are a part, awaiting the appropriate set of conditions so that they can become selected to control action. The analysis is therefore centered around actions, primarily external actions, but the same principles apply to internal actions—actions that involve only the cognitive processing mechanisms. One major emphasis in the study of attentional processes is the distinction between controlled and automatic processing of perceptual inputs (e.g., Shiffrin & Schneider, 1977). Our work here can be seen as complementary to the distinction between controlled and automatic processes: we examine action rather than perception; we emphasize the situations in which deliberate, conscious control of activity is desired rather than those that are automatic.
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The aim of the present study is two-fold. First, we investigate age-related changes to bilingual language control (bLC) mechanisms across lifespan. Second, we explore the relation between bLC mechanisms and those of the domain-general executive (EC) system by looking at age effects on these two systems. To do so, we compare the performances of the three age groups of bilinguals (young, middle-aged and elderly) in a language switching task to those of non-linguistic switching task. We found an age-related change in the non-linguistic switch cost but not in the language switch cost. Moreover, we did not find any correlation between the magnitudes of the switch costs. Taken together these results indicate that bLC is not affected by age as the EC system is, and interestingly, we add new evidence that the bLC mechanisms are not fully subsidiary to those of the domain-general EC system.
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IntroductionLexical fluency tests are frequently used in clinical practice to assess language and executive function.Objective As part of the Spanish normative studies project in young adults (NEURONORMA young adults project), we provide age- and education-adjusted normative data for 3 semantic fluency tasks (animals, fruits and vegetables, and kitchen tools), three formal lexical fluency tasks (words beginning with P, M and R), three excluded-letter fluency tasks (words excluding A, E and S) and a verb fluency task.Material and methodsThe sample consisted of 179 participants who are cognitively normal and range in age from 18 to 49 years. Tables are provided to convert raw scores to scaled scores. Age- and education-adjusted scores are provided by applying linear regression techniques.ResultsThe results show that education impacted most of the verbal fluency test scores, with no effects related to age and only minimal effects related to sex.Conclusions The norms obtained will be extremely useful in the clinical evaluation of young Spanish adults.
Presents a standardized set of 260 pictures for use in experiments investigating differences and similarities in the processing of pictures and words. The pictures are black-and-white line drawings executed according to a set of rules that provide consistency of pictorial representation. They have been standardized on 4 variables of central relevance to memory and cognitive processing: name agreement, image agreement, familiarity, and visual complexity. The intercorrelations among the 4 measures were low, suggesting that they are indices of different attributes of the pictures. The concepts were selected to provide exemplars from several widely studied semantic categories. Sources of naming variance, and mean familiarity and complexity of the exemplars, differed significantly across the set of categories investigated. The potential significance of each of the normative variables to a number of semantic and episodic memory tasks is discussed. (34 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).