Cognitive Neuroscience


Cerebral cortex




Formal publication: May 2024

Authors: Timofeeva, P., Finisguerra, A., D’Argenio, G., García, A. M., Carreiras, M., Quiñones, I., Urgesi, C., & Amoruso, L.

Abstract: The role of the left temporoparietal cortex in speech production has been extensively studied during native language processing, proving crucial in controlled lexico-semantic retrieval under varying cognitive demands. Yet, its role in bilinguals, fluent in both native and second languages, remains poorly understood. Here, we employed continuous theta burst stimulation to disrupt neural activity in the left posterior middle-temporal gyrus (pMTG) and angular gyrus (AG) while Italian-Friulian bilinguals performed a cued picture-naming task. The task involved between-language (naming objects in Italian or Friulian) and within-language blocks (naming objects [“knife”] or associated actions [“cut”] in a single language) in which participants could either maintain (non-switch) or change (switch) instructions based on cues. During within-language blocks, cTBS over the pMTG entailed faster naming for high-demanding switch trials, while cTBS to the AG elicited slower latencies in low-demanding non-switch trials. No cTBS effects were observed in the between-language block. Our findings suggest a causal involvement of the left pMTG and AG in lexico-semantic processing across languages, with distinct contributions to controlled vs. “automatic” retrieval, respectively. However, they do not support the existence of shared control mechanisms within and between language(s) production. Altogether, these results inform neurobiological models of semantic control in bilinguals.