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Poster C8, Friday, August 17, 10:30 am – 12:15 pm, Room 2000AB

Brain activity predicts future learning potential in intensive second language listening training

Mayumi Kajiura1, Hyeonjeong Jeong2, Natasha Y. S. Kawata2, Shaoyun Yu1, Toru Kinoshita1, Ryuta Kawashima2, Motoaki Sugiura2;1Nagoya University, 2Tohoku University

In second language (L2) listening, mapping sound to meaning is important, especially for learners who learn better when they read than when they listen. Reading a transcript before listening might be an effective method for these learners to map sounds to their meanings (Kajiura, 2016). In the present study, brain activity that was associated with mapping sound to meaning was examined to determine if it can predict the future effects of intensive L2 listening training. To determine the brain area involved in the function of mapping sound to meaning, the brain activities in different L2 listening conditions (TR: faster-rate listening after transcript reading and NTR: faster-rate listening without transcript reading) were compared. The study hypothesis was that individual patterns of brain correlated more with individual learning effects (training-induced score increase) in intensive L2 [2.5 h × 5 days] listening training in the TR condition compared with the NTR condition. The subjects were 19 healthy right-handed Japanese learners of English (mean age, 20.7; 13 males, 6 females; informed consent obtained). The stimuli were 40 fast-rate (faster than 340 wpm) short L2 (English) passages (counterbalanced, randomly presented, natural voice recordings of native speakers, easily read but difficult to listen to because of the speech rate). The participants read the transcripts of half of the stimuli and then listened to the passages (half were read before and the other half were not read) while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). After the fMRI scans, the participants underwent intensive (2.5 h × 5 days) L2 listening training using transcript reading and faster-rate listening. Different versions of Standard English proficiency tests [i.e., Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC®)] were used as the pre- and post-tests to assess their improvements which were used to analyze the correlation of the score change with brain activity. The fMRI data were analyzed using flexible analysis of variance using SPM12 ( The results showed listening proficiency levels improved significantly [paired t (18) = -7.8866, p < 0.001) after intensive L2 training. Significant changes in brain activity in the TR condition were found in the left angular gyrus (AG) and middle temporal gyrus (MTG; t = 4.74, family-wise error p < 0.05 for the cluster level), which suggested the association of these brain areas with the integration of sound and previously read information. The L2 training-induced TOEIC score increases positively correlated with AG/MTG activity, which was associated with the integration of sound and meaning) in the TR condition [Spearman's ρ (rho) = 0.52, p = 0.023). Individuals with a highly active left AG/MTG in the TR condition tended to be more successful at this training. Thus, these results indicated that AG/MTG activity predicted the effects of learning in intensive L2 listening training only in the TR condition and suggested that learners with greater activation of the AG/MTG were able to map sound and meaning while listening, which contributed to the effects of this training. Kajiura, M. (2016). JACET Journal, 60, 117-135

Topic Area: Perception: Speech Perception and Audiovisual Integration