Most of us have wondered questions like what impact does learning a new language has on the brain or is it possible for anyone to learn a new language efficiently? Most people agree that learning a new language positively impacts the brain and it is not something that anyone can do. Turns out it is correct.
Researchers at the Pennsylvania State University have described how learning a new language is beneficial for your brain. The study shows that learning a new language can change the brain network both structurally and functionally.
“Learning and practicing something, for instance a second language, strengthens the brain,” said Ping Li, professor of psychology, linguistics and information sciences and technology. “Like physical exercise, the more you use specific areas of your brain, the more it grows and gets stronger.”
In the experiment, Li and fellow researchers studied 39 native English speakers’ brain over a six-week period as half of the participants learned Chinese vocabulary. Participants had to undergo two functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging scans (fMRI), one before the experiment and one after, so that any neural changes could be tracked.
Scientists observed that those who were successful in learning the new vocabulary had more connected brain network before experiment than those who weren’t very successful and those who did not learn at all.
As for after the experiment, the researchers found the brains of successful learners had also undergone functional changes making their brain network better integrated.
This study proved that a better integrated brain network is much more efficient, thus making a new language easy to learn and the process of learning changes the anatomy and physiology of brain parts. But what more surprising for the
scientists is that this research also shows that brain is much more plastic than it was thought to be.
On another research, just one session of 30 minutes vigorous exercise makes the brain more plastic, which apparently leads to improvement of memory and coordination of motor skills.
It is actually a good news for aging people as Dr. Li puts it ‘Learning a new language can help lead to graceful aging’. This might also be an indication that learning a language can bring both behavioral and physical changes in adults.
Now, Li and his team have initiated their work on interactive ways that can be used to teach a new language, this includes virtual 3-D like environments with situation based learning. This method will be very helpful in inducing brain to make those new neural connections that are seen when a person is successful in learning a new language.
- Source: PENN STATE
- Reference(s): Neural changes underlying successful second language word learning: An fMRI study , Neuroplasticity as a function of second language learning: Anatomical changes in the human brain
- Image: Ping Li Lab