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  Motor cortex causally contributes to vocabulary translation following sensorimotor-enriched training

Mathias, B., Klingebiel, A., Hartwigsen, G., Sureth, L., Macedonia, M., Mayer, K., et al. (2021). Motor cortex causally contributes to vocabulary translation following sensorimotor-enriched training. The Journal of Neuroscience, 41(41), 8618-8631. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2249-20.2021.

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Mathias, Brian1, 2, Author              
Klingebiel, Andrea2, Author
Hartwigsen, Gesa3, Author              
Sureth, Leona2, Author              
Macedonia, Manuela4, 5, Author
Mayer, Katja6, Author
von Kriegstein, Katharina1, 2, Author              
1Chair of Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience, TU Dresden, Germany, ou_persistent22              
2Max Planck Research Group Neural Mechanisms of Human Communication, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society, Leipzig, DE, ou_634556              
3Lise Meitner Research Group Cognition and Plasticity, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society, ou_3025665              
4Department of Information Engineering, Johannes Kepler University, Linz, Austria, ou_persistent22              
5Center for Business Languages and Intercultural Communication, Johannes Kepler University, Linz, Austria, ou_persistent22              
6Institute for Psychology, Münster University, Germany, ou_persistent22              


Free keywords: TMS; Foreign language learning; Motor cortex; Multisensory; Sensorimotor learning
 Abstract: The role of the motor cortex in perceptual and cognitive functions is highly controversial. Here, we investigated the hypothesis that the motor cortex can be instrumental for translating foreign language vocabulary. Human participants of both sexes were trained on foreign language (L2) words and their native language translations over 4 consecutive days. L2 words were accompanied by complementary gestures (sensorimotor enrichment) or pictures (sensory enrichment). Following training, participants translated the auditorily presented L2 words that they had learned. During translation, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation was applied bilaterally to a site within the primary motor cortex (Brodmann area 4) located in the vicinity of the arm functional compartment. Responses within the stimulated motor region have previously been found to correlate with behavioral benefits of sensorimotor-enriched L2 vocabulary learning. Compared to sham stimulation, effective perturbation by repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation slowed down the translation of sensorimotor-enriched L2 words, but not sensory-enriched L2 words. This finding suggests that sensorimotor-enriched training induced changes in L2 representations within the motor cortex, which in turn facilitated the translation of L2 words. The motor cortex may play a causal role in precipitating sensorimotor-based learning benefits, and may directly aid in remembering the native language translations of foreign language words following sensorimotor-enriched training. These findings support multisensory theories of learning while challenging reactivation-based theories.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Despite the potential for sensorimotor enrichment to serve as a powerful tool for learning in many domains, its underlying brain mechanisms remain largely unexplored. Using transcranial magnetic stimulation and a foreign language (L2) learning paradigm, we found that sensorimotor-enriched training can induce changes in L2 representations within the motor cortex, which in turn causally facilitate the translation of L2 words. The translation of recently acquired L2 words may therefore rely not only on auditory information stored in memory or on modality-independent L2 representations, but also on the sensorimotor context in which the words have been experienced.


Language(s): eng - English
 Dates: 2021-07-192020-08-252021-07-202021-08-242021-10-13
 Publication Status: Published in print
 Pages: -
 Publishing info: -
 Table of Contents: -
 Rev. Type: -
 Identifiers: DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2249-20.2021
Other: epub 2021
PMID: 34429380
PMC: PMC8513706
 Degree: -



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Project name : -
Grant ID : KR 3735/3-1
Funding program : -
Funding organization : German Research Foundation
Project name : -
Grant ID : SENSOCOM 647051
Funding program : -
Funding organization : European Research Council

Source 1

Title: The Journal of Neuroscience
Source Genre: Journal
Publ. Info: -
Pages: - Volume / Issue: 41 (41) Sequence Number: - Start / End Page: 8618 - 8631 Identifier: ISSN: 0270-6474
CoNE: https://pure.mpg.de/cone/journals/resource/954925502187_1