Poster A43, Saturday, March 24, 1:30–3:30 pm, Exhibit Hall C
Neural responses during procedural memory tasks are related to foreign language learning outcomes
Tyler Perrachione1,2, Stuart Babcock1, Michelle Han2, John Salvatore2, Jennifer Minas2, Amy Finn2,3, John Gabrieli2, Zhenghan Qi2,4; 1Boston University, 2Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 3University of Toronto, 4University of Delaware
Recent theoretical and empirical work has suggested that aspects of the human faculty for language may rely on cognitive and neural systems for procedural memory. However, little is known about how the neural systems for procedural memory contribute to foreign language learning. In this study, we used fMRI to measure participants' (N=24) neurophysiological responses during procedural memory tasks prior to completing an intensive, month-long, classroom-based, Mandarin Chinese course. The in-scanner task required participants to press buttons in response to an ordinal visual sequence under three conditions: “random”, in which the visual sequence was stochastic and which served as the baseline; “serial”, in which a 12-item second-order conditional sequence was presented consistently throughout the experiment and which induced implicit procedural learning; and “transformed”, in which participants pressed the button corresponding to the adjacent (as opposed to presented) visual stimulus and which induced explicit procedural learning. Participants' attainment of Mandarin language skills was assessed using the standardized Chinese Proficiency Test (HSK), and whole-brain correlations were performed between language learning outcomes and procedural memory task activation. Neural responses in core procedural learning areas presaged participants' Mandarin attainment: prior to the Mandarin course, activation in right cerebellum to the serial condition and right caudate to the transformed condition were significantly correlated with participants' Mandarin proficiency after the course (voxel-wise p<0.005; cluster-level FDR p<0.05). These results provide preliminary evidence that individual differences in function of neural systems for procedural memory may contribute to individual differences in foreign language learning abilities.
Topic Area: LANGUAGE: Other