Summary: A new study reveals passive exposure to foreign speech sounds over the course of several consecutive days helps enhance discrimination abilities and language learning.
Source: UNIVERSITY OF JYVÄSKYLÄ.
Ability to understand and subsequently speak a new language requires the ability to accurately discriminate speech sounds of a given language. When we start to learn a new language the differences between speech sounds can be very difficult to perceive. With enough active practice the ability to discriminate the speech sounds enhances.
This type of learning is called perceptual learning. As a consequence of learning, new memory traces are formed in the brain. In contrast, in early infancy passive sound exposure is enough to enhance auditory discrimination during so called sensitive period.
In the recently published study, group of researchers from the University of Jyväskylä in collaboration with the Beijing Normal University tested whether passive exposure to unfamiliar speech sounds can result in enhanced discrimination ability also in adulthood.
It was found that the mere passive exposure to foreign speech for several consecutive days leads to enhanced discrimination ability as indexed by the brain response measurements. This was previously thought to occur only during the sensitive period in infancy.
“These new results could be utilized in the future in foreign language learning or musical training. Perhaps in the future, language courses start with sessions of passive exposure to speech sounds in the language that is taught. Students could listen speech sounds for example during their home chores or during jogging without paying attention to the sounds. This way they could have already trained their brains to detect the changes in the new language and would be more ready for the traditional class room teaching”, says postdoctoral researcher Jari Kurkela form University of Jyväskylä.
Funding: The research was conducted by researchers from University of Jyväskylä and Beijing Normal University. The research was funded by the Academy of Finland and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC). This article is part of Jari Kurkela’s PhD thesis. He defended his thesis in June 2018.
Source: Jari Kurkela – UNIVERSITY OF JYVÄSKYLÄ
Publisher: Organized by NeuroscienceNews.com.
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.
Original Research: Abstract for “Passive exposure to speech sounds modifies change detection brain responses in adults” by Jari L. O. Kurkela, Jarmo A. Hämäläinen, Paavo H. T. Leppänen, Hua Shu, and Piia Astikainen in NeuroImage. Published December 6 2018.
Passive exposure to speech sounds modifies change detection brain responses in adults
Itch—a major symptom of many chronic skin diseases—can exacerbate In early life auditory discrimination ability can be enhanced by passive sound exposure. In contrast, in adulthood passive exposure seems to be insufficient to promote discrimination ability, but this has been tested only with a single short exposure session in humans. We tested whether passive exposure to unfamiliar auditory stimuli can result in enhanced cortical discrimination ability and change detection in adult humans, and whether the possible learning effect generalizes to different stimuli. To address these issues, we exposed adult Finnish participants to Chinese lexical tones passively for 2 h per day on 4 consecutive days. Behavioral responses and the brain’s event-related potentials (ERPs) were measured before and after the exposure for the same stimuli applied in the exposure phase and to sinusoidal sounds roughly mimicking the frequency contour in speech sounds. Passive exposure modulated the ERPs to speech sound changes in both ignore (mismatch negativity latency, P3a amplitude and P3a latency) and attend (P3b amplitude) test conditions, but not the behavioral responses. Furthermore, effect of passive exposure transferred to the processing of the sinusoidal sounds as indexed by the latency of the mismatch negativity. No corresponding effects in the ERPs were found in a control group that participated to the test measurements, but received no exposure to the sounds. The results show that passive exposure to foreign speech sounds in adulthood can enhance cortical discrimination ability and attention orientation toward changes in speech sounds and that the learning effect can transfer to non-speech sounds.