Find us on Facebook

White matter structure changes as adults learn a second language.
News  ¦  19/01/2016

Schlegel AA, et al. J Cogn Neurosci. 2012.

Traditional models hold that the plastic reorganization of brain structures occurs mainly during childhood and adolescence, leaving adults with limited means to learn new knowledge and skills. Research within the last decade has begun to overturn this belief, documenting changes in the brain's gray and white matter as healthy adults learn simple motor and cognitive skills [Lövdén, M., Bodammer, N. C., Kühn, S., Kaufmann, J., Schütze, H., Tempelmann, C., et al. Experience-dependent plasticity of white-matter microstructure extends into old age. Neuropsychologia, 48, 3878-3883, 2010; Taubert, M., Draganski, B., Anwander, A., Müller, K., Horstmann, A., Villringer, A., et al. Dynamic properties of human brain structure: Learning-related changes in cortical areas and associated fiber connections. The Journal of Neuroscience, 30, 11670-11677, 2010; Scholz, J., Klein, M. C., Behrens, T. E. J., & Johansen-Berg, H. Training induces changes in white-matter architecture. Nature Neuroscience, 12, 1370-1371, 2009; Draganski, B., Gaser, C., Busch, V., Schuirer, G., Bogdahn, U., & May, A. Changes in grey matter induced by training. Nature, 427, 311-312, 2004]. Although the significance of these changes is not fully understood, they reveal a brain that remains plastic well beyond early developmental periods. Here we investigate the role of adult structural plasticity in the complex, long-term learning process of foreign language acquisition. We collected monthly diffusion tensor imaging scans of 11 English speakers who took a 9-month intensive course in written and spoken Modern Standard Chinese as well as from 16 control participants who did not study a language. We show that white matter reorganizes progressively across multiple sites as adults study a new language. Language learners exhibited progressive changes in white matter tracts associated with traditional left hemisphere language areas and their right hemisphere analogs. Surprisingly, the most significant changes occurred in frontal lobe tracts crossing the genu of the corpus callosum-a region not generally included in current neural models of language processing. These results indicate that plasticity of white matter plays an important role in adult language learning and additionally demonstrate the potential of longitudinal diffusion tensor imaging as a new tool to yield insights into cognitive processes.

Source: pubmed 
 
EUNIC in Brussels European Council of Artists (ECA) European Federation of National Institutions for Language
EUROCLIO European Council for Steiner Waldorf Education (ECSWE) ALTE
European Association for Terminology European Forum of Vocational Education and Training Culturelink
European Coordination of Independent Producers (CEPI) Club de Madrid Federation of European Publishers
European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA) EEE-YFU Mercator European Network of Language Diversity Centres
Federal Union of European Nationalities European Council of Literary Translators' Associations European Publishers Council
CMFE (Community Media Forum Europe) RECIT European Federation for Intercultural Learning
Association of Commercial Television in Europe (ACT) Eurolang FundaciĆ³n Academia Europea de Yuste
Europa Esperanto Unio - EEU Literature Across frontiers European Theatre Convention

"(c) 05/02/2011 - Disclaimer - Copyright European Union National Institutes for Culture" "This website has been funded with support from the European Commission. " This website reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Newsletter

Stay informed of Poliglotti4.eu

I think that I'm very lucky to have learnt three languages as a child, because it means that I know three languages equally well -- and that I can change between them. It's a gift for me.

Divya Das Denmark

Twitter