Brain Activity Reveals Native Language

June 24, 2008 07:01 AM
by Sarah Amandolare
By studying brain activity, scientists are able to determine a person’s mother tongue and proficiency in other languages, which could help doctors treat certain medical conditions.

30-Second Summary

In a study lasting more than a year, Italian scientists evaluated brain activity while people read, and were able to determine their native language and level of proficiency in other languages.

Subjects’ brain activity was surprisingly different when they were shown words in their native language, as opposed to words in other languages they spoke. The results “show how differently the brain absorbs and recalls languages learned in early childhood and those learned later in life,” reported the Los Angeles Times.

Italian professor Alice Mado Proverbio said a person’s native language prompts associations in the brain, which show up as heightened electrical activity.

Proverbio said the finding could aid communication between doctors and patients with amnesia or diseases that affect speech, such as dyslexia. Additionally, it could be used to determine the nationality of refugee applicants or terrorism suspects.

Recently, research performed at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Dalian University of Technology indicated that the first language a person learns “may fine-tune neural circuits in distinctive ways,” reported the Wall Street Journal.

Native language has also been shown to influence the way the brain solves mathematical puzzles and processes phonetics.

Headline Link: Brain reveals native language

Background: Finely tuned pathways

Related Topics: The particulars of learning language

Reference: University of Milano-Bicocca study


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