Lexical learning in a new language leads to neural pattern similarity with word reading in native language

Hum Brain Mapp. 2019 Jan;40(1):98-109. doi: 10.1002/hbm.24357. Epub 2018 Aug 23.


Previous neuroimaging studies have suggested similar neural activations for word reading in native and second languages. However, such similarities were qualitatively determined (i.e., overlapping activation based on traditional univariate activation analysis). In this study, using representational similarity analysis and an artificial language training paradigm, we quantitatively computed cross-language neural pattern similarity to examine the modulatory effect of proficiency in the new language. Twenty-four native Chinese speakers were trained to learn 30 words in a logographic artificial language for 12 days and scanned while performing a semantic decision task after 4-day training and after 12-day training. Results showed that higher proficiency in the new language was associated with higher cross-language pattern similarity in select regions of the reading network.

Keywords: fMRI; language learning; native language; pattern similarity; second language.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cerebral Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Decision Making / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Multilingualism*
  • Nerve Net / diagnostic imaging
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Psycholinguistics*
  • Reading
  • Young Adult