Thursday, May 3, 2012

Bilingual teenage brain stems listening comprehension!

Clip art: Clker
Clip art: Clker
Here is a Science Digest summary of a fascinating study on the advantages of being bilingual just published. (This is one of those pieces that I could go off a dozen directions on and really have fun with--but I'll try to "stick to the facts," regardless!)  In essence, it was discovered that the brain stems of bilingual subjects were significantly better at sound/pitch discrimination than monolinguals in one context: when the sound was strongly masked with static or white noise. The researcher notes some pretty amazing implications of that: "The bilingual's enhanced experience with sound results in an auditory system that is highly efficient, flexible and focused in its automatic sound processing, especially in challenging or novel listening conditions," and " .  . . evidence for system-wide neural plasticity in auditory experts that facilitates a tight coupling of sensory and cognitive functions." [italics, mine] Wow. The study does not explicitly establish that "tight coupling," although in terms of general understanding of the function of the "reptilian" brain stem (in addition to managing emotional response), that case can be made rather easily. But teenagers "paying attention?" Really? This may suggest one way around some of the  "critical period" problem in pronunciation or accent development: enhanced (full mind-body) attention training. Now let me think . . . how could that be done? Keep in touch.

No comments:

Post a Comment