Linking L2 proficiency and patterns of functional connectivity during L1 word retrieval

Katy Borodkin, Abigail Livny, Tammar Kushnir, Galia Tsarfaty, Omer Maliniak, Miriam Faust

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Second language (L2) learners differ greatly in language proficiency, which is partially explained by variability in native language (L1) skills. The present fMRI study explored the neural underpinnings of the L1-L2 link. Twenty L2 learners completed a tip-of-the-tongue (TOT) task that required retrieving words in L1. Low-proficiency L2 learners showed greater functional connectivity for correct and TOT responses between the left inferior frontal gyrus and right-sided homologues of the temporoparietal regions that support phonological processing (e.g., supramarginal gyrus), possibly reflecting difficulty with phonological retrieval. High-proficiency L2 learners showed greater connectivity for erroneous responses (TOT in particular) between the left inferior frontal gyrus and regions of left medial temporal lobe (e.g., hippocampus), associated with implicit learning processes. The difference between low- and high-proficiency L2 learners in functional connectivity, which is evident even during L1 processing, may affect L2 learning processes and outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104931
JournalBrain and Language
StatePublished - May 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Inc.


This research was supported in part by the Israel Science Foundation [grant # 602/06].

FundersFunder number
Israel Science Foundation602/06


    • Bilingualism
    • Functional connectivity
    • Naming
    • Second language
    • Tip-of-the-tongue
    • fMRI


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