Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Learning with all the senses

06.02.2015

Movements and images facilitate vocabulary learning

“Atesi” - what sounds like a word from the Elven language of Lord of the Rings is actually a Vimmish word meaning "thought". Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig have used Vimmish, an artificial language specifically developed for scientific research, to study how people can best memorise foreign-language terms. According to the researchers, it is easier to learn vocabulary if the brain can link a given word with different sensory perceptions.


A picture facilitates learning: our brain remembers the words "bicycle" and "thought" in a foreign language more easily if it is also confronted with corresponding images.

© MPI f. Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences/ v. Kriegstein

The motor system in the brain appears to be especially important: When someone not only hears vocabulary in a foreign language, but expresses it using gestures, they will be more likely to remember it. Also helpful, although to a slightly lesser extent, is learning with images that correspond to the word. Learning methods that involve several senses, and in particular those that use gestures, are therefore superior to those based only on listening or reading.

For most students, the very thought of learning new vocabulary evokes a groan. Rote learning of long lists of words must surely be one of the most unpopular types of schoolwork. That said, many schools and language courses have now understood that learning outcomes improve if vocabulary, for example, is presented not just as a word, but also as an image. The multisensory learning theory states that the brain learns more easily when several senses are stimulated in parallel.

The results obtained by the Leipzig-based researchers confirm this. For their study the scientists used Vimmish, an artificial language they developed themselves, which follows similar phonetic rules to Italian. This ensured that the vocabulary was equally new to all participants. Over the course of a week, young women and men were to memorise the meaning of abstract and concrete Vimmi-nouns under different conditions. In the first experiment, the subjects heard the word and then observed a corresponding image or a gesture. In the second experiment, they symbolically drew the corresponding word in the air or expressed it with a gesture. The researchers then checked whether the participants could still recall the term at different times after the learning period.

"The subjects' recollection was best in relation to terms they themselves had expressed using gestures. When they heard the term and its translation and also observed a corresponding image, they were also better able to remember the translation. By contrast, however, tracing a term or observing a gesture was no better than just hearing the term", explains Katja Mayer of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences. The way a term was learned was even reflected in the subjects' brain activity. In this way, areas of the brain responsible for the motor system were active when a subject translated a term previously learned through gesture, while areas of the visual system were active in the case of words learned with the help of images.

This suggests that the brain learns foreign words more easily when they are associated with information from different sensory organs. It may be that these associations are mutually reinforcing, imprinting the source-language term and its translation more deeply in the mind. "If for example we follow a new term with a gesture, we create additional input that facilitates the brain's learning", says Katharina von Kriegstein, head of the study at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences. The scientists now want to discover whether the activity in the motor and visual centres is actually the cause of the improved learning outcomes. They plan to do this by activating the neurons in these regions using electrodes and measuring the impact on learning outcomes.

It is not only in learning vocabulary that the multisensory principle applies; other studies have shown that multisensory input also facilitates word recognition in the subject's own language. "If we're on the phone with someone we know, for example, the areas of the brain responsible for facial recognition are active during the phone call. It seems that the brain simulates the information not being captured by the eyes and creates it for itself", explains von Kriegstein.

Thus, we learn with all our senses. Taste and smell also have a role in learning, and feelings play an important part too. But does multisensory learning work according to the principle: the more senses, the better? "That could well be so," says von Kriegstein, "but we don't know how much the learning outcomes improve with the addition of more senses. Ideally, however, the individual sensory impressions should match one another. In other words, to learn the Spanish word for apple, the subject should make an apple gesture, taste an apple or look at a picture of an apple."


Contact

Dr. Katharina von Kriegstein
Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9940-2476
Email: kriegstein@cbs.mpg.de
 
Katja Paasche
Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9940-2404
Fax: +49 341 9940-113
Email: paasche@cbs.mpg.de


Original publication
Katja M. Mayer, Izzet B. Yildiz, Manuela Macedonia, Katharina von Kriegstein

Visual and motor cortices differentially support the translation of foreign language words

Current Biology, 5 February 2015

Dr. Katharina von Kriegstein | Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New risk factors for anxiety disorders
24.02.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers
24.02.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>