Thursday, November 1, 2012

Master a new language and grow hippocampus and cerebral cortex


The learn­ing of lan­guages allows the brain to stay “in shape”, by caus­ing cer­tain parts of the brain to grow, includ­ing the hip­pocam­pus and three areas of the cere­bral cortex…This find­ing came from sci­en­tists at Lund Uni­ver­sity, after exam­in­ing young recruits with a tal­ent for acquir­ing lan­guages who were able to speak in Ara­bic, Russ­ian, or Dari flu­ently after just 13 months of learn­ing, before which they had no knowl­edge of the lan­guages…Johan MÃ¥rtens­son explained: “We were sur­prised that dif­fer­ent parts of the brain devel­oped to dif­fer­ent degrees depend­ing on how well the stu­dents per­formed and how much effort they had had to put in to keep up with the course.”
  • Abstract: The influ­ence of adult foreign-language acqui­si­tion on human brain orga­ni­za­tion is poorly under­stood. We stud­ied cor­ti­cal thick­ness and hip­pocam­pal vol­umes of con­script inter­preters before and after three months of intense lan­guage stud­ies. Results revealed increases in hip­pocam­pus vol­ume and in cor­ti­cal thick­ness of the left mid­dle frontal gyrus, infe­rior frontal gyrus, and supe­rior tem­po­ral gyrus for inter­preters rel­a­tive to con­trols. The right hip­pocam­pus and the left supe­rior tem­po­ral gyrus were struc­turally more mal­leable in inter­preters acquir­ing higher pro­fi­ciency in the for­eign lan­guage. Inter­preters strug­gling rel­a­tively more to mas­ter the lan­guage dis­played larger gray mat­ter increases in the mid­dle frontal gyrus. These find­ings con­firm struc­tural changes in brain regions known to serve lan­guage func­tions dur­ing foreign-language acquisition.