A longitudinal investigation of structural brain changes during second language learning

J. Legault, A. Grant, S.-Y. Fang, Ping Li

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


© 2019 Elsevier Inc.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
Article number104661
JournalBrain and Language
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Individual differences
  • Second language learning
  • Structural magnetic resonance imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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