Cognitive control for language switching in bilinguals: A quantitative meta-analysis of functional neuroimaging studies

Gigi Luk, David W. Green, Jubin Abutalebi, Cheryl Grady

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In a quantitative meta-analysis, using the activation likelihood estimation method, we examined the neural regions involved in bilingual cognitive control, particularly when engaging in switching between languages. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the bilingual cognitive control model originally proposed as a qualitative analysis of functional neuroimaging studies. After reviewing 128 peer-reviewed articles, 10 neuroimaging studies met our inclusion criteria and in each study, bilinguals switched between languages in response to cues. We isolated regions involved in voluntary language switching, by including reported contrasts between the switching conditions and high-level baseline conditions involving similar tasks but requiring the use of only one language. Eight brain regions showed significant and reliable activation: left inferior frontal gyrus, left middle temporal gyrus, left middle frontal gyrus, right precentral gyrus, right superior temporal gyrus, midline pre-supplementary motor area, and bilateral caudate nuclei. This quantitative result is consistent with bilingual aphasia studies that report switching deficits associated with lesions to the caudate nuclei or prefrontal cortex. It also extends the previously reported qualitative model. We discuss the implications of the findings for accounts of bilingual cognitive control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1479-1488
Number of pages10
JournalLanguage and Cognitive Processes
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012


  • Bilingualism
  • Cognitive control
  • Functional neuroimaging
  • Language switching
  • Meta-analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Linguistics and Language
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education


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