This study will examine differences in how the brain processes English and Korean in native
Korean speakers who are fluent and non-fluent in English as a second language. It is
thought that people who are non-fluent in a second language process the second language
differently from their native language-using different areas of the brain and requiring
additional working memory. The study will increase understanding of language acquisition,
brain plasticity and bilingualism.
Native Korean speakers between 18 and 50 years of age with English as a second language may
be eligible for this study. Three groups of individuals will be enrolled: 1) less fluent
bilinguals - those who have lived in the United States for at least 1, but less than 2 years
and studied English after age 12 and who have a TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign
Language) score above 550; 2) fluent bilinguals with early acquisition - those who were
exposed to English before age 7 and lived in the United States after that; and 3) fluent
bilinguals with late acquisition - those who were exposed to English after age 12 and lived
in the United States after age 10. People with a history of head injury or neurological or
thought disorder, left-handed people, and people who cannot read the material used in the
study will be excluded from the study.
Participants will undergo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanning while reading words in
English or Korean; while translating from one language to the other; and while answering
questions about the meaning of words in each language. MRI uses a strong magnetic field to
image brain tissue. The patient lies on a table that slides into a narrow metal cylinder,
which is the scanner. The head is restrained gently with foam padding to limit movement.
The patient can see out of the scanner through a mirror and is in contact with the
technician via an intercom at all times during the procedure. The scans measures blood flow
to different parts of the brain, providing information about what brain regions are being
used during the tasks performed. Another scan will be done to obtain a detailed picture of
the brain's structure.
This study will evaluate the usefulness of MRI in identifying brain areas involved in
processing different languages and increase knowledge about how illness affects brain
function. It may help plan treatment for bilingual patients who must undergo brain surgery
for uncontrolled epilepsy or who have a neurological disorder affecting different languages
with varying degrees.
This protocol will use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the
localization of verbal working memory and translation systems in normal volunteers who speak
English as a second language. Several important issues in areas such as language
acquisition, cortical plasticity, and bilingualism will be advanced by an increased
understanding of how multiple languages are represented in the brain. There are also an
increasing number of bilingual patients who need to undergo surgical intervention,
particularly for uncontrolled epilepsy, or suffer from a variety of neurological disorders
affecting different languages to varying degrees. It is very important to accurately assess
and localize language functions in these patients. This study will identify cortical areas
activated by the immediate translation of words and sentences between native and second
languages, as well as differences in verbal working memory systems between two languages.
It will also evaluate differences in verbal working memory and translation systems among
subjects with different proficiency and different age at acquisition of their second
language. This study will advance our understanding of the cortical representation that
underlies multiple language functions.
Native Korean speakers who have lived in the United States for at least one, but less than
two years and have studied English after the age of 12.
TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) score above 550.
FLUENT BILINGUALS WITH EARLY ACQUISITION:
Native Korean speakers who have been exposed to English before the age of 7 and have lived
in the US after that.
FLUENT BILINGUALS WITH LATE ACQUISITION:
Native Korean speakers who have been exposed to English after the age of 12 and have lived
in the US after that.
Ages 18-50 years old.
No history of head injury.
No history of neurological and thought disorder.
Must not take any medication with cognitive side effects.
Must not have any contraindication for fMRI (e.g. pacemaker, metallic surgical
No left-handed persons.
No persons who are unable to read the visually presented material.