Second language -- all in the head?

July 31, 2007 at 9:55 AM
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EVANSTON, Ill., July 30 (UPI) -- U.S. neuroscientists suggest that the differences in ability adults display in learning a second language is linked to structures in the brain.

The study, published in Cerebral Cortex, showed how the ability to learn 18 words of a "pseudo" language could be predicted by the size of the brain's Heschl's Gyrus.

"Our study links brain anatomy to the ability to learn a second language in adulthood," lead author neuroscience Patrick Wong, of Northwestern University, said in a study.

Wong and colleagues measured the size of Heschl's Gyrus, a finger-shaped structure in both the right and left side of the brain and found the size of the left, but not the right Heschl's Gyrus made the difference.

The study seems to be the first to consider the predictive value of a specific brain structure on linguistic learning even before training has begun, according to Wong.

"While our study demonstrates a link between biology and linguistics, we do not argue that biology is destiny when it comes to learning a second language," Wong emphasized. "Adults with smaller volumes of left Heschl's Gyrus gray matter need not despair that they can never learn another language."

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