Intrinsic functional connectivity in the adult brain and success in second-language learning

Xiaoqian J. Chai, Jonathan A. Berken, Elise B. Barbeau, Jennika Soles, Megan Callahan, Jen Kai Chen, Denise Klein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is considerable variability in an individual’s ability to acquire a second language (L2) during adulthood. Using resting-state fMRI data acquired before training in English speakers who underwent a 12 week intensive French immersion training course, we investigated whether individual differences in intrinsic resting-state functional connectivity relate to a person’s ability to acquire an L2.Wefocused ontwo key aspects of language processing—lexical retrieval in spontaneous speech and reading speed—and computed whole-brain functional connectivity from two regions of interest in the language network, namely the left anterior insula/frontal operculum (AI/FO) and the visual word form area (VWFA). Connectivity between the left AI/FO and left posterior superior temporal gyrus (STG) and between the left AI/FO and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex correlated positively with improvement in L2 lexical retrieval in spontaneous speech. Connectivity between the VWFA and left mid-STG correlated positively with improvement in L2 reading speed. These findings are consistent with the different language functions subserved by subcomponents of the language network and suggest that the human capacity to learn an L2 can be predicted by an individual’s intrinsic functional connectivity within the language network.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)755-761
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 20 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Individual differences
  • Insula
  • Language
  • Learning
  • Resting-state fMRI
  • VWFA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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