How Learning A New Language Can Change Your Brain Structure

Posts0Likes0Joined8/10/2018LocationCebu / PH
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Another great reason for learning a new language.

"In 2012, a group of Swiss researchers found that the process of learning a foreign language has discernible effects on the cerebral cortex.[1] After just three months of learning a new language, adult volunteers showed a thickening in this part of the brain, which is responsible for memory, learning, consciousness and language use. "

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Everyday is a learning journey. Keep going!

Posts1660Likes1103Joined18/3/2018LocationBellingham / US
Learning Italian
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First, thanks for posting that. 

Second, although I eventually found my way to the pertinent study, that lifehack article was a complete mess. They combined 2 studies and really confused me as to which one they were talking about when. Then after they posted some interesting exerpts from the studies, they turned it into a silly fluff artivcle on "the best way to learn a language". Lifehack took something interesting and twisted it into a pitch for popular apps. Blah!

Even though I find the Swiss study interesting, I've read similar studies and wasn't surprised. It was the study from the University of Washington that blew me away. Here's the abstract:

Adult human brains retain the capacity to undergo tissue reorganization during second-language learning. Brain-imaging studies show a relationship between neuroanatomical properties and learning for adults exposed to a second language. However, the role of genetic factors in this relationship has not been investigated. The goal of the current study was twofold: (i) to characterize the relationship between brain white matter fiber-tract properties and second-language immersion using diffusion tensor imaging, and (ii) to determine whether polymorphisms in the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene affect the relationship. We recruited incoming Chinese students enrolled in the University of Washington and scanned their brains one time. We measured the diffusion properties of the white matter fiber tracts and correlated them with the number of days each student had been in the immersion program at the time of the brain scan. We found that higher numbers of days in the English immersion program correlated with higher fractional anisotropy and lower radial diffusivity in the right superior longitudinal fasciculus. We show that fractional anisotropy declined once the subjects finished the immersion program. The relationship between brain white matter fiber-tract properties and immersion varied in subjects with different COMT genotypes. Subjects with the Methionine (Met)/Valine (Val) and Val/Val genotypes showed higher fractional anisotropy and lower radial diffusivity during immersion, which reversed immediately after immersion ended, whereas those with the Met/Met genotype did not show these relationships. Statistical modeling revealed that subjects’ grades in the language immersion program were best predicted by fractional anisotropy and COMT genotype.

So I believe what they are saying is that language study changes your brain structure, genetics determine by how much, and the bigger the change the better you acquire the language. This is the first study I've read that says there really are people who are genetically better at learning languages. "The gift fallacy" is what we always used to call it. 

To be fair to our combined conventional wisdom of old, there are so many factors determining how well/quickly one can learn a language, this genetic one may actually be less significant than things like motivation, time, etc. I suspect that's the case. But it's interesting to know that there is also a genetic factor to consider.

Learning Italian every day!

Posts0Likes0Joined6/10/2018LocationIrpin / UA
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There was also some research conducted in the field of neurolinguistics about the impact of language learning on the aging of the brain. Also multilingualism did not completely eliminated dementia, but in many cases it did postpone the onset of symptoms and made them less acute.