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Vocabulary acquisition represents a major challenge in foreign language learning. Research has demonstrated that gestures accompanying speech have an impact on memory for verbal information in the speakers' mother tongue and, as recently shown, also in foreign language learning. However, the neural basis of this effect remains unclear. In a within-subjects design, we compared learning of novel words coupled with iconic and meaningless gestures. Iconic gestures helped learners to significantly better retain the verbal material over time. After the training, participants' brain activity was registered by means of fMRI while performing a word recognition task. Brain activations to words learned with iconic and with meaningless gestures were contrasted. We found activity in the premotor cortices for words encoded with iconic gestures. In contrast, words encoded with meaningless gestures elicited a network associated with cognitive control. These findings suggest that memory performance for newly learned words is not driven by the motor component as such, but by the motor image that matches an underlying representation of the word's semantics. Hum Brain Mapp, 2010. (c) 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
Department of Neuropsychology, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Human brain mapping
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Learning in which the subject must respond with one word or syllable when presented with another word or syllable.
The gradual expansion in complexity and meaning of symbols and sounds as perceived and interpreted by the individual through a maturational and learning process. Stages in development include babbling, cooing, word imitation with cognition, and use of short sentences.
A system of hand gestures used for communication by the deaf or by people speaking different languages.
A reference book containing a list of words - usually in alphabetical order - giving information about form, pronunciation, etymology, grammar, and meaning. A foreign-language dictionary is an alphabetical list of words of one language with their meaning and equivalents in another language.
Use of word stimulus to strengthen a response during learning.
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