“The learning of languages allows the brain to stay “in shape”, by causing certain parts of the brain to grow, including the hippocampus and three areas of the cerebral cortex…This finding came from scientists at Lund University, after examining young recruits with a talent for acquiring languages who were able to speak in Arabic, Russian, or Dari fluently after just 13 months of learning, before which they had no knowledge of the languages…Johan Mårtensson explained: “We were surprised that different parts of the brain developed to different degrees depending on how well the students performed and how much effort they had had to put in to keep up with the course.”
Abstract: The influence of adult foreign-language acquisition on human brain organization is poorly understood. We studied cortical thickness and hippocampal volumes of conscript interpreters before and after three months of intense language studies. Results revealed increases in hippocampus volume and in cortical thickness of the left middle frontal gyrus, inferior frontal gyrus, and superior temporal gyrus for interpreters relative to controls. The right hippocampus and the left superior temporal gyrus were structurally more malleable in interpreters acquiring higher proficiency in the foreign language. Interpreters struggling relatively more to master the language displayed larger gray matter increases in the middle frontal gyrus. These findings confirm structural changes in brain regions known to serve language functions during foreign-language acquisition.