“Scientists from the Higher School of Economics (HSE) together with colleagues from the University of Helsinki have discovered that learning foreign languages enhances the our brain’s elasticity and its ability to code information…The experiment has shown that the brain’s electrical activity of those participants who had already known some foreign languages, was higher. The author of the study, Yuriy Shtyrov commented that the more languages someone mastered, the faster the neuron network coding the information on the new words was formed. Consequently, this new data stimulates the brain’s physiology: loading the mind with more knowledge boosts its elasticity.”
Study: Individual language experience modulates rapid formation of cortical memory circuits for novel words (Scientific Reports)
- Abstract: Mastering multiple languages is an increasingly important ability in the modern world; furthermore, multilingualism may affect human learning abilities. Here, we test how the brain’s capacity to rapidly form new representations for spoken words is affected by prior individual experience in non-native language acquisition. Formation of new word memory traces is reflected in a neurophysiological response increase during a short exposure to novel lexicon. Therefore, we recorded changes in electrophysiological responses to phonologically native and non-native novel word-forms during a perceptual learning session, in which novel stimuli were repetitively presented to healthy adults in either ignore or attend conditions. We found that larger number of previously acquired languages and earlier average age of acquisition (AoA) predicted greater response increase to novel non-native word-forms. This suggests that early and extensive language experience is associated with greater neural flexibility for acquiring novel words with unfamiliar phonology. Conversely, later AoA was associated with a stronger response increase for phonologically native novel word-forms, indicating better tuning of neural linguistic circuits to native phonology. The results suggest that individual language experience has a strong effect on the neural mechanisms of word learning, and that it interacts with the phonological familiarity of the novel lexicon.
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