Poster Session E, Monday, March 25, 2:30 – 4:30 pm, Pacific Concourse
Tool-use triggers improvements in syntactic abilities
Simon Thibault1,2,4, Véronique Boulenger3,5, Alice Catherine Roy3,5, Claudio Brozzoli1,2,4,6; 1ImpAct Team, INSERM U1028, CNRS UMR5292, Lyon, France, 2Lyon Neuroscience Research Centre, 3Dynamique Du Langage, CNRS UMR5596, Lyon, France, 4University of Lyon 1, 5University of Lyon 2, 6Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
A core neural network (i.e. Inferior Frontal Gyrus and Basal Ganglia) is involved in both tool-use and syntactic processes. Sensorimotor learning is known to induce brain plasticity, therefore opening to possible beneficial transfer effects between tool-use and language. This study aimed to test whether syntactic functions improve after tool-use training in French native healthy adults. Syntactic abilities were measured via comprehension of complex relative clauses, before and after one of three possible training regimes. One group (N=21) underwent 18-minutes tool-use training requiring to insert pegs on a board with a pinch. To control for the specificity of the tool-use training benefits, two control groups were either trained on the same task with the hand (N=21) or instructed to watch a video during the same amount of time (N=19). Syntactic performance was indexed by inverse efficiency, ratio between response time and accuracy. Within each training group, the median of their initial syntactic abilities allowed to identify participants with high (HA) and low abilities (LA). Within-group ANOVAs show that HA participants solved the syntactic task significantly better after tool-use training compared to before, but not after hand training or video watching. The same analyses for LA participants reveal similar improvements regardless of training type. Overall, for HA participants a single tool-use session enhances syntactic abilities. The results in the control groups suggest that such enhancement is linked to the specific requirement of tool-use. These findings offer encouraging evidence for transfer effects from sensorimotor training to cognitive functions implemented in overlapping brain regions.
Topic Area: LANGUAGE: Syntax