Structural brain changes related to bilingualism: does immersion make a difference?

Stein, Maria; Winkler, Carmen; Kaiser Trujillo, Anelis Carolina; Dierks, Thomas (2014). Structural brain changes related to bilingualism: does immersion make a difference? Frontiers in psychology, 5(Art.1116), pp. 1-7. Frontiers Research Foundation 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01116

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Within the field of neuroscientific research on second language learning, considerable attention has been devoted to functional and recently also structural changes related to second language acquisition. The present literature review summarizes studies that investigated structural changes related to bilingualism. Furthermore, as recent evidence has suggested that native-like exposure to a second language (i.e., a naturalistic learning setting or immersion) considerably impacts second language learning, all findings are reflected with respect to the learning environment. Aggregating the existing evidence, we conclude that structural changes in left inferior frontal and inferior parietal regions have been observed in studies on cortical gray matter changes, while the anterior parts of the corpus callosum have been repeatedly found to reflect bilingualism in studies on white matter (WM) connectivity. Regarding the learning environment, no cortical alterations can be attributed specifically to naturalistic or classroom learning. With regard to WM changes, one might tentatively propose that changes in IFOF and SLF are possibly more prominently observed in studies investigating bilinguals with a naturalistic learning experience. However, future studies are needed to replicate and strengthen the existing evidence and to directly test the impact of naturalistic exposure on structural brain plasticity.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > University Psychiatric Services > University Hospital of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy > Psychiatric Neurophysiology [discontinued]
07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy
07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Social Neuroscience and Social Psychology
10 Strategic Research Centers > Center for Cognition, Learning and Memory (CCLM)

UniBE Contributor:

Stein, Maria; Kaiser Trujillo, Anelis Carolina and Dierks, Thomas


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology




Frontiers Research Foundation




Anna Maria Ruprecht Künzli

Date Deposited:

26 Nov 2014 10:15

Last Modified:

11 Sep 2015 11:04

Publisher DOI:





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