Research also demonstrates brain's plasticity and ability to adapt to new language environments
You may believe that you have forgotten the Chinese you spoke as a child, but your brain hasn’t. Moreover, that “forgotten” first language may well influence what goes on in your brain when you speak English or French today.
In a paper published today in Nature Communications, researchers from McGill University and the Montreal Neurological Institute describe their discovery that even brief, early exposure to a language influences how the brain processes sounds from a second language later in life. Even when the first language learned is no longer spoken.
It is an important finding because this research tells scientists both about how the brain becomes wired for language, but also about how that hardwiring can change and adapt over time in response to new language environments. The research has implications for our understanding of how brain plasticity functions, and may also be important information about creating educational practices geared to different types of learners.
The researchers asked three groups of children (aged 10 - 17) with very different linguistic backgrounds to perform a task that involved identifying French pseudo-words (such as vapagne and chansette). One group was born and raised in unilingual French-speaking families. The second group were adopted from China into a French-speaking family before age three, stopped speaking Chinese, and from that point on heard and used only French. The third group were fluently bilingual in Chinese and French. As the children responded to the words they heard, the researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to look at which parts of their brains were being activated.
Although all groups performed the tasks equally well, the areas of the brain that were activated differed between the groups. In monolingual French children with no exposure to Chinese, areas of the brain, notably the left inferior frontal gyrus and anterior insula, expected to be involved in processing of language-associated sounds were activated. However, among both the children who were bilingual (Chinese/French) and those who had been exposed to Chinese as young infants and had then stopped speaking it, additional areas of the brain, particularly the right middle frontal gyrus, left medial frontal cortex, and bilateral superior temporal gyrus were activated.
The researchers found that the Chinese children who had been adopted into unilingual French families and no longer spoke Chinese, and so were functionally unilingual at the time of testing, still had brains that processed language in a way that is similar to bilingual children.
The mental effort it takes to switch between multiple languages appears to reshape the brain, boosting grey matter volume in regions responsible for tasks such as learning and short-term memory retention, new research suggests. The finding, by...
Scientists have long known that sleep, memory and learning are deeply connected but how has remained a mystery. The question is, does the mechanism that promotes sleep also consolidate memory, or do two distinct processes work together? In other words, is memory consolidated during sleep because the brain is quiet or are memory neurons actually putting us to sleep? In a recent paper, researchers make a case for the latter.
Psilocybin, or "magic," mushrooms are a controlled substance with hallucinogenic effects. Recently, however, researchers have been studying this fungus as a potential mental health treatment. Here are 11 strange facts about "'shrooms."
People are focused on the external world and don’t enjoy spending much time alone thinking, according to a new study. The investigation found that most would rather be doing something -- possibly even hurting themselves -- than doing nothing or sitting alone with their thoughts.
......"What is striking," the investigators write, "is that simply being alone with their own thoughts for 15 minutes was apparently so aversive that it drove many participants to self-administer an electric shock that they had earlier said they would pay to avoid." Wilson and his team note that men tend to seek "sensations" more than women, which may explain why 67 percent of men self-administered shocks to the 25 percent of women who did......"
Postgraduate research student Rishikesh Patel, from London's Kingston University, carried out a study that showed dark chocolate can help boost athletic performance..A team led by postgraduate research student Rishikesh Kankesh Patel discovered that dark chocolate provides similar benefits to beetroot juice, now taken regularly by elite athletes after studies showed it can improve performance. "Beetroot juice is rich in nitrates, which are converted to nitric oxide in the body. This dilates blood vessels and reduces oxygen consumption -- allowing athletes to go further for longer," Mr Patel explained. The team from the British university wanted to find out whether dark chocolate could provide a similar boost, as it contains a substance called epicatechin -- a type of flavanol found in the cacao bean, that also increases nitric oxide production in the body. To test the theory, Mr Patel carried out a study with a group of nine amateur cyclists. The 23 year old researcher was supervised by sport science field leader Dr Owen Spendiff and senior lecturer in sport analysis James Brouner. After undergoing initial fitness tests to establish a baseline for comparison, the participants were then split into two groups. The first group was asked to replace one of its normal daily snacks with 40g of a dark chocolate known to be rich in flavanols for a fortnight, while the other participants substituted 40g of white chocolate for one of their daily snacks as a control. The effects of the athletes' daily chocolate consumption were then measured in a series of cycling exercise tests in the sports performance laboratory at the University's Penrhyn Road campus. The cyclists' heart rates and oxygen consumption levels were measured during moderate exercise and in time trials. After a seven-day interval, the groups then switched chocolate types and the two-week trial and subsequent exercise tests were repeated. The study, which has now been published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, found that after eating dark chocolate, the riders used less oxygen when cycling at a moderate pace and also covered more distance in a two-minute flat-out time trial. Mr Patel said the results opened the door for more research which could eventually lead to dark chocolate becoming a staple part of endurance athletes' diets. "Both dark chocolate and beetroot juice are known to increase nitric oxide, which is the major mechanism we believe is behind these results," Mr Patel said. "We found that people could effectively exercise for longer after eating dark chocolate -something that's not been established before in this way."
Little animations trying to master a computer game are teaching neuroscience researchers how the brain evolves when faced with difficult tasks. Neuroscientists have programmed animated critters that they call 'animats.' The critters have a rudimentary neural system made of eight nodes: two sensors, two motors, and four internal computers that coordinate sensation, movement and memory.
Struggling to stand on one leg for less than 20 seconds was linked to an increased risk for stroke, small blood vessel damage in the brain, and reduced cognitive function in otherwise healthy people, a study has shown. One-legged standing time may be a simple test used to measure early signs of abnormalities in the brain associated with cognitive decline, cerebral small vessel disease and stroke.
A molecular process in the brain known to control eating that transforms white fat into brown fat has been uncovered by researchers. This process impacts how much energy we burn and how much weight we can lose, they report.
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