A longitudinal investigation of structural brain changes during second language learning

Jennifer Legault, Angela Grant, Shin Yi Fang, Ping Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Few studies have examined the time course of second language (L2) induced neuroplasticity or how individual differences may be associated with brain changes. The current longitudinal structural magnetic resonance imaging study examined changes in cortical thickness (CT) and gray matter volume (GMV) across two semesters of L2 Spanish classroom learning. Learners’ lexical processing was assessed via a language decision task containing English and Spanish words. Our findings indicated that (1) CT increased in the left anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and right middle temporal gyrus (MTG) after L2 learning, (2) CT in the right MTG increased in individuals who were better able to discriminate between native language and L2 words, and (3) CT in the left ACC was correlated with functional connectivity between the ACC and MTG. These findings indicate that L2 lexical development is associated with functional and structural changes in brain regions important for cognitive control and semantic processing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104661
JournalBrain and Language
StatePublished - Oct 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Speech and Hearing


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