White-Matter Development is Different in Bilingual and Monolingual Children: A Longitudinal DTI Study

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Although numerous people grow up speaking more than one language, the impact of bilingualism on brain developing neuroanatomy is still poorly understood. This study aimed to determine whether the changes in the mean fractional-anisotropy (MFA) of language pathways are different between bilingual and monolingual children. Simultaneous-bilinguals, sequential-bilinguals and monolingual, male and female 10-13 years old children participated in this longitudinal study over a period of two years. We used diffusion tensor tractography to obtain mean fractional-anisotropy values of four language related pathways and one control bundle: 1-left-inferior-occipitofrontal fasciculus/lIFOF, 2-left-arcuate fasciculus/lAF/lSLF, 3-bundle arising from the anterior part of corpus-callosum and projecting to orbital lobe/AC-OL, 4-fibres emerging from anterior-midbody of corpus-callosum (CC) to motor cortices/AMB-PMC, 5- right-inferior-occipitofrontal fasciculus rIFOF as the control pathway unrelated to language. These values and their rate of change were compared between 3 groups. FA-values did not change significantly over two years for lAF/lSLF and AC-OL. Sequential-bilinguals had the highest degree of change in the MFA value of lIFOF, and AMB-PMC did not present significant group differences. The comparison of MFA of lIFOF yielded a significantly higher FA-value in simultaneous bilinguals compared to monolinguals. These findings acknowledge the existing difference of the development of the semantic processing specific pathway between children with different semantic processing procedure. These also support the hypothesis that age of second language acquisition affects the maturation and myelination of some language specific white-matter pathways.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0117968
Number of pages16
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • bilingualism
  • brain
  • Monolingual
  • children


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