The Neuroanatomical Correlates of Foreign Language Aptitude

Sabrina Turker, Susanne M. Reiterer, Peter Schneider, Annemarie Seither-Preisler

Publications: Contribution to bookChapterPeer Reviewed


In this chapter language aptitude will be looked at from a neuroscientific perspective and it will be discussed to which extent foreign language aptitude, i.e., foreign language learning potential or ability, is influenced by brain morphology, working memory and musical ability. The first part hence serves as a theoretical introduction and brief narrative review on past research, whereas the second part deals with a study on the role of the morphology of auditory cortex in German-speaking individuals with high and low language aptitude. In this study, MRI scans of German monolingual native speakers (N = 30; aged: 20–40 years) were analyzed and the auditory cortices of the participants with particularly high and those with particularly low language aptitude were compared. On the behavioral level, significant correlations could be found between speech imitation aptitude, English pronunciation skills, musicality and language aptitude as measured by the Modern Language Aptitude Test (MLAT). Especially the number of instruments played and working memory capacity showed significant correlations with aptitude measures. Moreover, it became clear that adults with very high language aptitude scores had more complete posterior duplications of Heschl’s gyrus in the right hemisphere and thus a differently developed primary auditory cortex. The results are in accordance with what research has previously shown in musically gifted children and could reignite the discussion of the importance of right-hemispheric brain areas for language processing.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationExploring Language Aptitude: Views from Psychology, the Language Sciences, and Cognitive Neuroscience
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages30
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-91917-1
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-91916-4
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Publication series

SeriesEnglish Language Education

Austrian Fields of Science 2012

  • 602036 Neurolinguistics
  • 602040 Psycholinguistics


  • Auditory Cortex
  • Imitative Speech
  • Modern Language Aptitude Test (MLAT)
  • Musical Ability
  • Working Memory Capacity

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