How To Identify Quick Language Learners

Posted: Jul 3 2016, 2:47am CDT | by , in | Latest Science News

 
How to Identify Quick Language Learners
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The brain activity generated while relaxing is likely to indicate individuals who can learn new languages faster, says a research.

The findings showed that a five-minute measurement of resting-state brain activity predicted how quickly adults picked up a second language.

“The way someone's brain functions while at rest can predict 60 per cent of their capacity for learning a second language,” said lead author Chantel Prat, Associate Professor at the University of Washington.

The patterns of resting-state brain waves reflect synchronized firing of large networks of neurons and can determine subsequent language learning rate.

The findings showed that the larger the networks in "beta" frequencies -- brain frequencies associated with language and memory, the faster was the learning.

"This is vital brain function research that could enable the military to develop a more effective selection process of those who can learn languages quickly," said Ray, a program officer in Office of Naval Research's (ONR) Warfighter Performance Department, who oversees the research.

"This is especially critical to the intelligence community, which needs linguists fluent in a variety of languages, and must find such individuals rapidly," Perez added.

For the study, 19 participants -- adults between the ages of 18 and 31, with no previous experience learnt French over eight weeks for 30-minute French lessons delivered through an immersive, virtual-reality computer program.

For five minutes before and after the eight-week curriculum, the team had participants sit still, close their eyes, breathe deeply and wear an EEG (electroencephalogram) headset measuring resting-state brain activity from the cerebral cortex--an area of the brain crucial to memory, attention and perception.

The results showed that those with the larger "beta" networks learned French twice as quickly.

"By studying individual differences in the brain, we're figuring out key constraints on learning and information processing, to develop ways to improve language mastery," said Prat.

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