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The effects of bilingualism on the white matter structure of the brain

Pliatsikas, C., Moschopoulou, E. and Saddy, J. D. (2015) The effects of bilingualism on the white matter structure of the brain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 112 (5). pp. 1334-1337. ISSN 0027-8424

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1414183112

Abstract/Summary

Recent studies suggest that learning and using a second language (L2) can affect brain structure, including the structure of white matter (WM) tracts. This observation comes from research looking at early and older bilingual individuals who have been using both their first and second languages on an everyday basis for many years. This study investigated whether young, highly immersed late bilinguals would also show structural effects in the WM that can be attributed to everyday L2 use, irrespective of critical periods or the length of L2 learning. Our Tract-Based Spatial Statistics analysis revealed higher fractional anisotropy values for bilinguals vs. monolinguals in several WM tracts that have been linked to language processing and in a pattern closely resembling the results reported for older and early bilinguals. We propose that learning and actively using an L2 after childhood can have rapid dynamic effects on WM structure, which in turn may assist in preserving WM integrity in older age.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism
Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Centre for Integrative Neuroscience and Neurodynamics (CINN)
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Neuroscience
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Language and Cognition
ID Code:39144
Uncontrolled Keywords:bilingualism immersion white matter second language acquisition TBSS
Publisher:National Academy of Sciences

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