Although though some key brain areas are involved in the processing of all languages, these regions exhibit varied activity patterns when processing other languages.
According to the various brain activation patterns seen when processing particular languages, people who speak different native languages would likely have diverse brain structures. According to a recent study, the wiring of the brain regions responsible for language processing differed between native Arabic and German speakers.
These findings imply that learning one’s native language during childhood changes the connections in the brain and may help to explain why people’s ability to think differently depending on their original language.
The native tongue of a person can influence how they think. For instance, Russian has two different terms that distinguish between bright and dark blue, whereas English only has one word for hues in the blue spectrum.
Intriguingly, native Russian speakers typically perform substantially better than native English speakers in examinations requiring the differentiation of light and dark blue. Similar findings have been made about how different native languages express directions and how well-rounded a person’s sense of orientation is.
There are changes in the wiring of language processing regions in the brains of native Arabic and German speakers, according to a recent study published in the journal NeuroImage.
This raises the possibility that acquiring one’s native language as a youngster could alter the brain’s structural makeup, potentially explaining the disparities in cognitive function between people who speak various first languages.
Language processing in the brain
Throughout the years, research has established that a complex network of interconnected brain regions, primarily in the left side or hemisphere of the brain, processes and produces language. Moreover, research has shown that specific brain regions are linked to processing certain components of language, such as semantics (word meaning), syntax (grammatical structure), and phonology (sounds associated with language).
Brain areas in the left hemisphere are principally where syntactic and semantic processing takes place. However, other language-related information, particularly that pertaining to sounds and intonation, is either processed in the right hemisphere or both of them.
In the world, there are close to 7,000 different languages spoken. Individuals with different native languages display varied patterns of brain activation during language processing, despite the fact that the same basic brain regions are engaged in the comprehension and production of all languages.
The brains of people who speak different native languages are structurally different, according to studies. This shows that learning one’s native language throughout childhood causes differences in the brain’s structure from individuals who speak a different first language.
There are two types of brain tissue: grey matter and white matter. The processing of information takes place in the grey matter, which is made up of the cell bodies of neurons or nerve cells. Axons and dendrites, which transmit information from one neuron to the next, make up white matter, on the other hand.
Gray and white matter density in the regions involved in language processing differs between English and Chinese speakers, according to a prior study. In a similar vein, research has revealed variations in the white matter tract patterns connecting several brain regions in native English, German, and Chinese speakers.
Differences in brain connectivity
Researchers compared the differences in the wiring of the brain areas responsible for language processing in speakers of Arabic and German in the current study. These languages were chosen by the researchers because of how differently semantics and syntax are used in each.
First of all, these languages are not related to one another; German is an Indo-German language, while Arabic is a Semitic language. Arabic is more pronounced semantically than German, which has a more complicated grammatical or syntactic framework.
Arabic words frequently lack short vowels, unlike German, and their pronunciation and meaning depend on their context. In addition, German script is written from left to right, whereas Arabic script is written and read from right to left.
Studies have revealed increased syntactic processing activity during German comprehension, which is consistent with this. Others, however, have demonstrated a larger engagement of semantic processing regions during Arabic comprehension. In these investigations, individuals analyse a specific language while magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is used to look at brain patterns.
Left and right hemispheres connection
The purpose of the current investigation was to determine whether native Arabic and German speakers have structural differences in their brains at baseline as a result of the distinct demands that each language places on the brain.
The researchers specifically looked at whether baseline brain connectivity patterns differed between native German and Arabic speakers. Diffusion-weighted MRI was utilised to find the white matter tracts that link the various parts of the brain.
Both groups’ participants had increased connection in the left hemisphere, which is where language processing is predominately processed. Yet, compared to Arabic speakers, participants whose native language was German had better connections between brain areas involved in language processing in either hemisphere.
Native German speakers, on the other hand, displayed weaker connections between regions in the left and right hemispheres than native Arabic speakers. The right-to-left writing system and the semantic intricacy of Arabic may be to blame for the increased activation of both hemispheres.
Brain scans of German speakers also showed greater connectivity between left hemispheric brain areas involved in syntactic processing. In contrast, native Arabic speakers had stronger connections between the brain regions involved in semantic processing.
Can language change personality?
In conclusion, the current study demonstrates that lifetime exposure to one’s native language causes structural changes in the brain. Dr. Alfred Anwander, a neuropsychologist at the Max Planck Institute and the study’s author, stated:
“The study provides significant evidence for the impact of the environment and first language on brain development, particularly the shaping of the connections that directly affect how our brains process information during thought. This may indicate that unique personality is a product of life experiences rather than being “hard-wired” in our brains.
Dr. Anwander added that the study’s findings might be applied to develop strategies specifically for people with neurological disorders.
Childhood in especially, when the brain still exhibits a larger capacity for adaptation, may leave lasting imprints on our brains and lay the groundwork for the specialised nature of each unique brain. Dr. Alfred Anwander, study author, noted that this may have some implications for clinical situations where individualised treatment may be necessary, such as in neurological rehabilitation strategies, in addition to improving our understanding of how the brain processes various languages differently.
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