The Relationship between Memory-Related White Matter Tracts and Second Language

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An important aspect of learning another language is grammar learning, which depends on the declarative memory system. Three white matter tracts are associated with declarative memory, namely the uncinate fasciculus, arcuate fasciculus, and the white matter connection between the hippocampus and the medial prefrontal cortex. This study investigated the relationship between these three bilateral declarative memory-related white matter tracts and second language (L2) grammar learning. Participants learned Icelandic grammar for five consecutive days and were tested before and after learning on a grammatical judgement task in the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner. Diffusion weighted imaging (DWI) data was collected and the three memory-related white matter tracts were delineated using XTRACT. In total, 29 Dutch non-bilingual students were included for data-analyses. The results showed no relationship between the fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD) of the three memory-related white matter tracts and L2 grammar learning. More research is needed to fully support or reject this finding. Altogether, these findings suggest that memory-related white matter tracts are not associated with L2 grammar learning. Keywords: second language (L2) grammar learning; declarative memory; uncinate fasciculus; arcuate fasciculus; white matter connection between the hippocampus and medial prefrontal cortex; fractional anisotropy (FA); mean diffusivity (MD); diffusion tensor imaging (DTI)
Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen