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How our brains learn language
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Language learning happens in ancient brain circuits that humans share with other animals.
The finding, from a meta-analysis of 16 studies that examined how children learn a first language and how adults absorb a second one, upends the conventional wisdom that language centres in the human brain are specifically dedicated for that purpose.
Rather, they indicate that our lexical abilities are tied to general-purpose brain systems that are also involved in mundane tasks such as remembering a shopping list or learning to ride a bicycle. These brain areas have simply been co-opted for language acquisition in humans.
The study — from a three-person team that included a Deakin University psychologist — suggest that drugs and behavioural interventions known to promote learning and retention of other sorts of information may also help facilitate language learning for people with dyslexia, autism or other language disorders.
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 15, 1487–1492 (2018). doi: 10.1073/pnas.1713975115