Neurobiol Lang (Camb). 2021 Dec 23;2(4):605-627. doi: 10.1162/nol_a_00056. eCollection 2021.
Bilinguals’ need to suppress the activation of their other language while speaking has been proposed to result in enhanced cognitive control abilities outside of language. Several studies therefore suggest shared cognitive control processes across linguistic and non-linguistic tasks. Here we investigate this potential overlap using scalp electroencephalographic recordings and the Laplacian transformation, providing an estimation of the current source density and enabling the separation of EEG components in space. Fourteen Spanish-English bilinguals performed a picture-word matching task contrasting incongruent trials using cross-linguistic false cognates (e.g., a picture – foot, overlaid with distractor text: the English word PIE, i.e., the false cognate for the Spanish pie meaning “foot”) with congruent trials (matching English picture names and words, i.e., a picture – foot, with overlaid text: the English word FOOT), and an unrelated control condition. In addition, participants performed an arrow-version of the Eriksen flanker task. Worse behavioral performance was observed in incongruent compared to congruent trials in both tasks. In the non-linguistic task, we replicated the previously observed congruency effect on a medial-frontal event-related potential (ERP) peaking around 50 ms before electromyography (EMG) onset. A similar ERP was present in the linguistic task, was sensitive to congruency, and peaked earlier, around 150 ms before EMG onset. In addition, another component was found in the linguistic task at a left lateralized anterior frontal site peaking around 200 ms before EMG onset, but was absent in the non-linguistic task. Our results suggest a partial overlap between linguistic and non-linguistic cognitive control processes and that linguistic conflict resolution may engage additional left anterior frontal control processes.