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      Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious: How the brain learns words never heard before

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      NeuroImage

      Elsevier BV

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          Abstract

          Vocabulary acquisition is such a major aspect of language learning in children, but also in adults when learning a foreign language, that a dedicated vocabulary learning device may exist within the language organ. To identify the relevant brain systems, we performed regional cerebral blood flow measurements in normal subjects while they were learning a list of neologisms or a list of word-nonword pairs. Structures implicated in phonological short-term memory (Broca's area, left temporo-parietal junction) were steadily activated during nonwords learning, while the left temporal lobe neocortical and paralimbic structures (parahippocampal region), associated with long-term memory, contributed to learning in a time-dependent manner, with maximal activation at the beginning of the process. The neural system specifically activated when learning new vocabulary was strongly lateralized to the left hemisphere. This evidence refines current models of memory function and supports theories which emphasise the importance of phonological competence in hemispheric dominance for language.

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          Author and article information

          Journal
          NeuroImage
          NeuroImage
          Elsevier BV
          10538119
          May 2009
          May 2009
          : 45
          : 4
          : 1368-1377
          Article
          10.1016/j.neuroimage.2008.12.043
          19171195
          © 2009

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