While there is a substantial amount of work studying multilingualism’s effect on cognitive functions, little is known about how the multilingual experience modulates the brain as a whole. In this study, we analyzed data of over 1,000 children from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study to examine whether monolinguals and multilinguals differ in executive function, functional brain connectivity, and brain–behavior associations. We observed significantly better performance from multilingual children than monolinguals in working-memory tasks. In one finding, we were able to classify multilinguals from monolinguals using only their whole-brain functional connectome at rest and during an emotional n-back task. Compared to monolinguals, the multilingual group had different functional connectivity mainly in the occipital lobe and subcortical areas during the emotional n-back task and in the occipital lobe and prefrontal cortex at rest. In contrast, we did not find any differences in behavioral performance and functional connectivity when performing a stop-signal task. As a second finding, we investigated the degree to which behavior is reflected in the brain by implementing a connectome-based behavior prediction approach. The multilingual group showed a significant correlation between observed and connectome-predicted individual working-memory performance scores, while the monolingual group did not show any correlations. Overall, our observations suggest that multilingualism enhances executive function and reliably modulates the corresponding brain functional connectome, distinguishing multilinguals from monolinguals even at the developmental stage.
multilingualism, functional connectivity, fMRI, working memory, children