It remains unsettled whether human language relies exclusively on innately privileged brain structure in the left hemisphere or is more flexibly shaped through experiences, which induce neuroplastic changes in potentially relevant neural circuits. Here we show that learning of second language (L2) vocabulary and its cessation can induce bidirectional changes in the mirror-reverse of the traditional language areas. A cross-sectional study identified that gray matter volume in the inferior frontal gyrus pars opercularis (IFGop) and connectivity of the IFGop with the caudate nucleus and the superior temporal gyrus/supramarginal (STG/SMG), predominantly in the right hemisphere, were positively correlated with L2 vocabulary competence. We then implemented a cohort study involving 16 weeks of L2 training in university students. Brain structure before training did not predict the later gain in L2 ability. However, training intervention did increase IFGop volume and reorganization of white matter including the IFGop-caudate and IFGop-STG/SMG pathways in the right hemisphere. These “positive” plastic changes were correlated with the gain in L2 ability in the trained group but were not observed in the control group. We propose that the right hemispheric network can be reorganized into language-related areas through use-dependent plasticity in young adults, reflecting a repertoire of flexible reorganization of the neural substrates responding to linguistic experiences.
Tuesday, September 03, 2013
Second language training reorganizes right hemisphere areas.
Hosoda et al. do a clear demonstration of how first and second languages mainly recruit different part of the brain. Training in a second language correlates with enlargement of parts of the right hemisphere, not the innately favored left hemisphere language areas used by the first language.