Learning a foreign language? It’s all in the head

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Think you haven’t got the aptitude to learn a foreign language? New research led by Northwestern University neuroscientists suggests that the problem, quite literally, could be in your head.

“Our study links brain anatomy to the ability to learn a second language in adulthood,” said neuroscientist Patrick Wong, assistant professor of communication sciences and disorders at Northwestern and lead author of a study appearing online today (July 25) at, in Cerebral Cortex.

Based on the size of Heschl’s Gyrus (HG), a brain structure that typically accounts for no more than 0.2 percent of entire brain volume, the researchers found they could predict — even before exposing study participants to an invented language — which participants would be more successful in learning 18 words in the “pseudo” language.

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