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Journal Article

Anatomical Traces of Vocabulary Acquisition in the Adolescent Brain

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http://pubman.mpdl.mpg.de/cone/persons/resource/persons84042

Lee,  HL
Research Group Cognitive Neuroimaging, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Lee, H., Devlin JT, Shakeshaft C, Stewart LH, Brennan A, Glensman J, Pitcher K, Crinion J, Mechelli A, Frackowiak RSJ, Green, D., & Price, C. (2007). Anatomical Traces of Vocabulary Acquisition in the Adolescent Brain. Journal of Neuroscience, 27(5), 1184-1189. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4442-06.2007.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0013-CEE1-A
Abstract
A surprising discovery in recent years is that the structure of the adult human brain changes when a new cognitive or motor skill is learned. This effect is seen as a change in local gray or white matter density that correlates with behavioral measures. Critically, however, the cognitive and anatomical mechanisms underlying these learning-related structural brain changes remain unknown. Here, we combined brain imaging, detailed behavioral analyses, and white matter tractography in English-speaking monolingual adolescents to show that a critical linguistic prerequisite (namely, knowledge of vocabulary) is proportionately related to relative gray matter density in bilateral posterior supramarginal gyri. The effect was specific to the number of words learned, regardless of verbal fluency or other cognitive abilities. The identified region was found to have direct connections to other inferior parietal areas that separately process either the sounds of words or their meanings, suggesting that the posterior supramarginal gyrus plays a role in linking the basic components of vocabulary knowledge. Together, these analyses highlight the cognitive and anatomical mechanisms that mediate an essential language skill.