The role of age of acquisition on past tense generation in Spanish-English bilinguals: An fMRI study

Eric J. Waldron, Arturo E. Hernandez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


At its most basic sense, the sensorimotor/emergentist (S/E) model suggests that early second language (L2) learning is preferentially reliant upon sensory and motor processes, while later L2 learning is accomplished by greater reliance on executive abilities. To investigate the S/E model using fMRI, neural correlates of L2 age of acquisition were examined by employing a past-tense generation task on 22 L2 proficient bilinguals. Early bilinguals preferentially recruited left hemisphere sensorimotor regions involved in motoric control and articulation. In contrast, later learners, to a greater degree, engaged regions involved in executive cognitive control and lexical access. The data support the notion that early L2 learners devote neural resources to motor control during lexical retrieval. In contrast, later L2 learners recruit executive control mechanisms to generate the past tense. These data are consistent with the S/E model of bilingual language learning, and serve as an extension of cognitive control theories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)28-37
Number of pages10
JournalBrain and Language
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This material is based upon work supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Development Grant (1 R03HD50313-01). Special thanks to Paul J. Massman and Jack M. Fletcher and the 2 anonymous reviewers for their critiques and suggestions with earlier versions of this manuscript, and thank you to Kailyn Bradley for assistance with data analysis.


  • Age of acquisition
  • Bilingualism
  • Cognitive control
  • FMRI
  • Sensorimotor


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