The Striatum Is Shaped by Language Experience and Musical Training, Rousseau, Paul-Noel, 2019
Striatum & Language Processing, Striatum & Bilingualism, Striatum & Music
The brain changes with experience. With modern neuroimaging techniques changes in gray and white matter structure have been demonstrated that correspond with different types of intensive training. Two categories of enrichening experience which consistently produce changes at the level of the brain, and also engage some of the same underlying circuitry are musical and bilingual language experience. With both musical training and bilingual language learning, age of acquisition, or the timing of training is a critical determinant in both behavioural outcomes and changes in the brain. While the focus has primarily been on the cortex, the striatum appears to play a critical role in both language and music. In our study, we sought to understand how the timing of second language learning, in addition to musical experience alters the structure of the striatum. To this end we employed a novel set of methods implemented by the MAGeT Brain pipeline for precise study of subcortical anatomy. We expected to find that the striatum would be differentially affected by language experience and musical training, with the former affecting more associative areas and the later areas with more of a motor control function. We found that timing of second language acquisition was associated with strong changes in anterior and posterior regions of the putamen. Musicianship was not associated with volumetric changes to the striatum, but to differences in shape which may imply a reconfiguration of this structure in response to this type of training. The effects of musical training and language experience intersected in the head of the caudate nucleus, where we found volumetric reductions associated with simultaneous bilingualism and musical training. Together these results point towards the engagement of the striatum in both language and musical ability, and more specifically on the effects of two intensive auditory-motor experiences on brain structure, and the impact of intensive training at different points in brain development.