Verbal working memory plays a significant role in language comprehension and problem-solving. The prefrontal cortex has been suggested as a critical area in working memory. Given that domain-specific dissociations of working memory may exist within the prefrontal cortex, it is possible that there may also be further functional divisions within the verbal working memory processing. While differences in the areas of the brain engaged in native and second languages have been demonstrated, little is known about the dissociation of verbal working memory associated with native and second languages. We have used H2 152O positron emission tomography in 14 normal subjects in order to identify the neural correlates selectively involved in working memory of native (Korean) and second (English) languages. All subjects were highly proficient in the native language but poorly proficient in the second language. Cognitive tasks were a two-back task for three kinds of visually presented objects: simple pictures, English words, and Korean words. The anterior portion of the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the left superior temporal gyrus were activated in working memory for the native language, whereas the posterior portion of the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the left inferior temporal gyrus were activated in working memory for the second language. The results suggest that the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and left temporal lobe may be organized into two discrete, guage-related functional systems. Internal phonological processing seems to play a predominant role in working memory processing for the native language with a high proficiency, whereas visual higher order control does so for the second language with a low proficiency.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cognitive Neuroscience