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L2-proficiency-dependent laterality shift in structural connectivity of brain language pathways

Xiang, H., Van Leeuwen, T. M., Dediu, D., Roberts, L., Norris, D. G., & Hagoort, P. (2015). L2-proficiency-dependent laterality shift in structural connectivity of brain language pathways. Brain Connectivity, 5(6), 349-361. doi:10.1089/brain.2013.0199.
Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and a longitudinal language learning approach were applied to investigate the relationship between the achieved second language (L2) proficiency during L2 learning and the reorganization of structural connectivity between core language areas. Language proficiency tests and DTI scans were obtained from German students before and after they completed an intensive 6-week course of the Dutch language. In the initial learning stage, with increasing L2 proficiency, the hemispheric dominance of the BA6-temporal pathway (mainly along the arcuate fasciculus) shifted from the left to the right hemisphere. With further increased proficiency, however, lateralization dominance was again found in the left BA6-temporal pathway. This result is consistent with reports in the literature that imply a stronger involvement of the right hemisphere in L2-processing especially for less proficient L2-speakers. This is the first time that a L2-proficiency-dependent laterality shift in structural connectivity of language pathways during L2 acquisition has been observed to shift from left to right, and back to left hemisphere dominance with increasing L2-proficiency. We additionally find that changes in fractional anisotropy values after the course are related to the time elapsed between the two scans. The results suggest that structural connectivity in (at least part of) the perisylvian language network may be subject to fast dynamic changes following language learning
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The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

The institute is situated on the campus of the Radboud University. We participate in the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, and have particularly close ties to that institute's Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging. We also participate in the Centre for Language Studies. A joint graduate school, the IMPRS in Language Sciences, links the Donders Institute, the CLS and the MPI.

 

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