Localized morphological brain differences between English-speaking Caucasians and Chinese-speaking Asians: new evidence of anatomical plasticity

Neuroreport. 2003 May 23;14(7):961-4. doi: 10.1097/01.wnr.0000075417.59944.00.


Deformation field morphometry was applied to magnetic resonance images to detect differences in brain shape between English-speaking Caucasians and Chinese-speaking Asians. Anatomical differences between these two groups were limited to gyri in the frontal, temporal and parietal lobes, which are known (through functional imaging studies) to differentiate Chinese speakers from English speakers. We interpret these anatomical differences as evidence of neural plasticity shaped by the process of language acquisition during childhood. While anatomical plasticity due to manual skill acquisition (e.g. in musicians) has been established, to our knowledge this is the first report of a brain anatomical difference attributable to a learned cognitive strategy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asian Continental Ancestry Group*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • European Continental Ancestry Group*
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Male
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*