White matter microstructure predicts foreign language learning in army interpreters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Adult foreign language acquisition is challenging, and the degree of success varies among individuals. Anatomical differences in brain structure prior to training can partly explain why some learn more than others. We followed a sample of conscript interpreters undergoing intense language training to study learning-related changes in white-matter microstructure (FA, MD, RD and AD) and associations between differences in brain structure prior to training with acquired language proficiency. No evidence for changes in white matter microstructure relative to a control group was found. Starting values of RD, AD and MD were positively related to final test scores of language proficiency, corroborating earlier findings in the field and highlighting the need for further study of how initial brain structure influences and interacts with learning outcomes.


External organisations
  • Umeå University
  • Max Planck Institute for Human Development
  • Karolinska Institutet
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics
  • Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)


  • diffusion tensor imaging, interpreting, language acquisition
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)763-771
Number of pages9
Issue number4
Early online date2020 Mar 3
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Aug
Publication categoryResearch