Brain processing of native and foreign languages

Daniela Perani, Stanislas Dehaene, Franco Grassi, Laurent Cohen, Stefano F. Cappa, Emmanuel Dupoux, Ferruccio Fazio, Jacques Mehler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We used positron emission tomography to study brain activity in adults while they were listening to stories in their native language, in a second language acquired after the age of seven, and in a third unknown language. Several areas, similar to those previously observed in monolinguals, were activated by the native but not by the second language. Both the second and the unknown language yielded distinct left-hemispheric activations in areas specialized for phonological processing, which were not engaged by a backward speech control task. These results indicate that some brain areas are shaped by early exposure to the maternal language, and are not necessarily activated by the processing of a second language to which they have been exposed for a limited time later in life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2439-2444
Number of pages6
Issue number15-17
Publication statusPublished - 1996


  • Bilingualism
  • Cognitive processes
  • Language acquisition
  • Positron emission tomography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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