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Regimented language training: Changes to brain and behavior following intensive language learning

Interacting Minds seminar with Johan Mårtensson

Info about event


Tuesday 8 October 2013,  at 11:00 - 13:00


Campus Aarhus, Nobelparken, building 1483-3, IMC meeting room



At the Swedish Armed Forces Language School, young recruits learn a new language at a very fast pace. By measuring brain structure before and after language training, we were given the opportunity to observe what happens to the brain when we learn a new language in a short period of time. Recruits go from having no knowledge of a language such as Arabic, Russian or Dari to speaking it fluently in the space of 13 months. From morning to evening, weekdays and weekends, the recruits study at a pace unlike any traditional language course.

As a control group, we used medicine and cognitive science students at Umeå University – students who also study hard, but not language, nor at the same intensity. Both groups underwent MRI scans before and after a three-month period of intensive studies. While the brain structure of the control group remained unchanged, we found changes in specific brain areas of the language students.