Facilitated By

San Antonio Medical Foundation

The effect of language experience on a bilingual's ability to process arithmetic and other memorized facts

The University of Texas at San Antonio

The University of Texas at San Antonio is an emerging Tier One research institution with nearly 29,000 students.

Principal Investigator(s)
Wicha, Nicole
Cerda, Vanessa
Funded by
Natl Inst of Health
Research Start Date

In the United States. English is the primary language of instruction and testing in most schools.
 However. many bilingual students entering US schools learned foundational concepts in a language other than English and might be at a developmental disadvantage when expected to build on this knowledge. It has been widely debated in the literature which concepts are stored as language-specific memories and how bilinguals might access this information in their other language. In this proposal. I will investigate how the bilingual brain processes foundational knowledge that is thought to be affected by language experience. In Aim 1. I used event-related potentials (ERPs) to understand how foundational arithmetic concepts. namely memorized multiplication facts. are processed across a bilingual's languages. My research revealed that fluent bilingual adults and children elicit similar brain responses in both languages. suggesting equivalent access to these facts from memory across languages. This data suggests that bilinguals may have overlapping cortical representations of facts in both languages. In Aim 2. I will directly test this by using a neuroimaging method with better localization than ERPs. in particular functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). My pre-doctoral training will give me expertise in both ERP and fMRI methodologies and an interdisciplinary perspective intersecting child development. bilingualism. language. and math cognition. In Aim 3. I delineate my plan to identify and obtain a postdoctoral position that will allow me to accomplish my long-term research goals. Multiplication facts are a limited set of memorized information and can be used as a unique tool in assessing bilingual memory and processing. However. as a finite set of concepts. multiplication facts may be processed differently than other concepts in bilingual memory. As a post doc. I plan to investigate how proficiency. use. and age of acquisition of a language influences language-dependent memory more generally. Ultimately. I aim to establish my own
 research lab to not only train future generations of students. but also to gather information that will spearhead advancements in bilingual education and child development.

Collaborative Project
Basic Research