How Learning a New Language Changes Your Brain
TUESDAY, March 30, 2021 -- Brain activity increases when you start to learn a new language, but slows down as you become more proficient, a new, small study finds.
"In the first few months, you can quantitatively measure language-skill improvement by tracking brain activations," study co-author Kuniyoshi Sakai, a neuroscientist at the University of Tokyo, said in a school news release.
The study included 15 native speakers of European languages who moved to Tokyo and completed introductory Japanese classes for at least three hours each day.
All were in their 20s. They had studied English as children or teenagers, but had never studied Japanese or traveled to Japan.
After at least eight weeks of lessons, and again six to 14 weeks later, the volunteers completed Japanese reading and listening tests while inside a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner. It measured blood flow, an indicator of brain activity.
The initial MRIs revealed increased blood flow in specific regions of the brain. They included regions specialized for language, including grammar and comprehension; memory, and vision.
The increased blood flow showed that the volunteers were thinking hard to recognize the characters and sounds of the unfamiliar language, the researchers explained.
In the second tests, when the students were more skillful, the participants had decreased activation in the grammar center and comprehension area during listening tests, and in the visual areas of the occipital lobes during the reading tests.
"We expect that brain activation goes down after successfully learning a language because it doesn't require so much energy to understand," Sakai said.
The study was published March 26 in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.
"In the future, we can measure brain activations to objectively compare different methods to learn a language and select a more effective technique," Sakai said.
© 2021 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
Posted: March 2021
Read this next
WEDNESDAY, April 21, 2021 -- As if the headaches and stuffy nose aren't bad enough, chronic sinus trouble often leaves patients foggy-headed and depressed. Now, new research...
WEDNESDAY, April 21, 2021 -- Eviction bans during the COVID-19 pandemic reduced infection rates not only in people who avoided displacement but also in their communities,...
WEDNESDAY, April 21, 2021 -- The percentage of U.S. doctors who are Black has barely risen in the past 120 years, and there's still a wide pay gap between white and Black...
More News Resources
- FDA Medwatch Drug Alerts
- Daily MedNews
- News for Health Professionals
- New Drug Approvals
- New Drug Applications
- Drug Shortages
- Clinical Trial Results
- Generic Drug Approvals
Subscribe to our Newsletter
Whatever your topic of interest, subscribe to our newsletters to get the best of Drugs.com in your inbox.