Nerve stimulations could help us master more languages

Learning new languages gets harder as we age, but researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) may have found a solution to mastering languages later in life. 

The team of researchers has come up with a simple, earbud-like device that delivers harmless stimulation of the vagus nerve which helps users learn new languages, specifically Mandarin which is considered to be the most difficult for native English-speakers to pick up. The technique is called transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation (tVNS) and uses the vagus nerve because it is the longest of the 12 cranial nerves that connect the brain to the rest of the body.

To test their device, researchers recruited 36 native English-speaking adults and trained them to identify the four tones of Mandarin Chinese in examples of natural speech. All the participants wore the tVNS device but only some received the imperceptible vibrations. They found that participants using the tVNS were 13 percent better on average at classifying tones and reached peak performance twice as quickly as control participants who wore the tVNS device but never received stimulation.

The vagus nerve has a long history of use for treating ailments. It has been stimulated to treat epilepsy for decades and has also been studied to reduce depression and inflammatory diseases. The researchers hope that this simple language learning boost will encourage more students to stick with language studies. They hope that even a 13 percent improvement in initial lessons will motivate students to keep practicing. 

Moving forward, the researchers plan to explore potential commercial applications for the technologies and study the long term effects of the technique for picking up a variety of languages. In our increasingly globalized world, mastery of multiple languages is becoming a more and more valuable skill. Technology tools like this could be beneficial in helping beginners and experts master more languages.

Solution News Source

Nerve stimulations could help us master more languages

Learning new languages gets harder as we age, but researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) may have found a solution to mastering languages later in life. 

The team of researchers has come up with a simple, earbud-like device that delivers harmless stimulation of the vagus nerve which helps users learn new languages, specifically Mandarin which is considered to be the most difficult for native English-speakers to pick up. The technique is called transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation (tVNS) and uses the vagus nerve because it is the longest of the 12 cranial nerves that connect the brain to the rest of the body.

To test their device, researchers recruited 36 native English-speaking adults and trained them to identify the four tones of Mandarin Chinese in examples of natural speech. All the participants wore the tVNS device but only some received the imperceptible vibrations. They found that participants using the tVNS were 13 percent better on average at classifying tones and reached peak performance twice as quickly as control participants who wore the tVNS device but never received stimulation.

The vagus nerve has a long history of use for treating ailments. It has been stimulated to treat epilepsy for decades and has also been studied to reduce depression and inflammatory diseases. The researchers hope that this simple language learning boost will encourage more students to stick with language studies. They hope that even a 13 percent improvement in initial lessons will motivate students to keep practicing. 

Moving forward, the researchers plan to explore potential commercial applications for the technologies and study the long term effects of the technique for picking up a variety of languages. In our increasingly globalized world, mastery of multiple languages is becoming a more and more valuable skill. Technology tools like this could be beneficial in helping beginners and experts master more languages.

Solution News Source

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