Linguistic distance dynamically modulates the effects of bilingualism on executive performance in aging
To better explain various neurocognitive consequences of bilingualism, recent investigations have adopted continuous measures of bilingual experience, as opposed to binary bi/monolingual distinctions. However, few studies have considered whether bilingualism's effects on cognition are modulated by the linguistic distance (LD) between L1 and L2, and none of the existing studies has examined cognitive consequences of LD in aging populations. Here, we investigated the modulatory role of LD on the relationship between bilingualism, executive performance, and cognitive reserve (CR) in a sample of senior bilinguals. Our results show a dynamic trajectory of LD effects, with more distant language pairs exerting maximum effects at initial stages of bilingual experience – and closer language pairs at advanced stages. Bilingualism-related CR effects emerged only in the individuals with closer language pairs, suggesting that the language control stage of bilingual experience may play a key role in CR accrual, as compared to the L2 learning stage.