Language learning boosts brain plasticity and ability to code new information


BY studying brain electrical activity of volunteers, researchers found that language acquisition enhances brain plasticity and capacity for learning. In particular, they note that early language learning plays a significant role in the rapid formation of memory circuits for coding new information.
The researchers found that the more languages a volunteer had mastered, the faster the brain circuits coding new information reacted.
In a paper published in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers from the Higher School of Economics (HSE), in Moscow, Russia, and the University of Helsinki, in Finland, describe how they used EEG (electroencephalography) to probe the brain mechanisms involved in language learning in human volunteers.
Previous research has established that understanding the brain mechanisms involved in acquiring language helps enormously in the diagnosis and treatment of people with impaired speech following accidents, strokes, and other related conditions.
In particular, knowing more of how the brain makes and strengthens new circuits or neural networks increases the scope for harnessing or speeding up these processes to improve learning.However, research in this area progresses slowly compared with studies of other brain functions because we cannot investigate verbal ability in animals, explain the authors.
The new study finds that the more foreign languages we learn, the faster the brain responds and processes the data it absorbs during learning.
In other words, the study suggests loading the mind with more knowledge boosts its ability to acquire more.
Volunteers began learning non-native languages in school
For their investigation, the researchers conducted a series of experiments where they used EEG to measure the electrical activity in the brains of 10 male and 12 female volunteers of average age 24 during specifically designed word exposure exercises.
All the volunteers were healthy native Finnish speakers with normal hearing. None had learned a second or further language(s) during infancy. They came from monolingual families and had not been exposed to foreign languages during day care.They all began learning their non-native languages in school, as is the standard in the Finnish education system.

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