Convergence of speech-print networks as a marker of language learning
Pedro M. Paz-Alonso1, Kshipra Gurunandan1, Manuel Carreiras1,2; 1BCBL. Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language, 2Ikerbasque. Basque Foundation for Science
Learning a new language offers an excellent window to study neural plasticity. Developmental research, studies with adults learning a new language and studies on literacy acquisition have revealed functional and structural changes in the language areas of the brain. Standard literate monolingual adults typically exhibit well-integrated and highly convergent speech and reading networks. This overlap between networks is thought to be universal, being found across highly contrastive languages. However, it is not clear yet to what extent the convergence between speech and print networks differs in a new learned language. The present study was aimed at investigating the relation between speech and reading networks in adults who are at different stages of acquiring a new language. Thirty-four adult native speakers of Spanish, either at the intermediate or advanced learning levels of Basque, underwent functional MRI scanning while performing an animacy judgment task for speech and print stimuli in their native (L1) and second language (L2). Regional patterns of activation in the left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and left ventro-occipito-temporal cortex revealed group by language interactions. Within group differences in the speech-print overlap between L1 and L2 emerged, as well as a between groups difference showing a larger speech-print overlap on semantic and phonological regions (IFG, inferior parietal cortex, lateral temporal cortex) in the L2 advanced versus L2 intermediate learning level groups. Our results suggest that the speech-print networks convergence is modulated by the learning level and it is an indicator of the level of mastering a new language.
Topic Area: LANGUAGE: Semantic