Some People May Be Pre-Wired to Be Bilingual

Some People May Be Pre-Wired to Be Bilingual

Some people's brains seem pre-wired to acquire a second language, new research suggests. But anyone who tries to move beyond their mother tongue will likely gain a brain boost, the small study finds.

The brain "becomes more connected and integrated after learning," said study co-author Ping Li, co-director of the Center for Brain, Behavior and Cognition at Pennsylvania State University. But it's even more interesting, Li said, that "the brain networks of the more successful learners are better connected even before learning takes place."

Li's team is studying how brain wiring relates to the development of second-language skills. "We know that if the learning of a new language is successful, key brain regions responsible for handling languages will become activated. But we don't know how these different regions are connected with each other as a network," Li said.

In the new study, recently publish in the Journal of Neurolinguistics, the researchers hoped to identify the changes that occur in the brain network after learning. They also wanted "to make predictions as to what network changes might or might not occur so as to predict individual differences," Li explained.

To find the answers, they recruited 39 native English speakers and asked 23 of them to study Chinese vocabulary over six weeks. The researchers scanned their brains with MRI machines before and after the language course.

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