Thursday, December 07, 2006

Language Files in the Brain - Finding Words

Word finding difficulties can be maddening as speaker struggle to find the right words.

Some recent fMRI studies shed insights into the different filing patterns for words in the brain. There is no single spot, but rather a network of connections that files words according to similar sounds, meanings, and categories, real life experiences, and phrases. Other brain regions keep track of word frequency and whether the words are concrete or abstract. The complex network of word filing is good news for the tongue-tied because it means that different pathways can be tapped to find the correct word...if they know the different paths to choose.

One recent paper using word priming found that that when test subjects heard the word "piano", they were quicker at retrieving a similarly acted upon object like a typewriter.

Possible implications for teaching / learning:

- word retrieval can be stimulated by different routes, including sound cues, meaning or synonym cues, visual or sensory-motor (e.g. gestures, physical experiences) associations, cloze / fill-in-the-blank prompts
- language learning doesn't only mean sitting at one's desk and memorizing; word filing can be enriched by personal and hands-on experiences
- dramatization or enactment can be a useful approach for improving a student's expressive difficulties
- teachers can work subliminally on their dysfluent students by grouping classroom experiences (theming) that enrich associations and direct contact with objects; later they can be prompted with similar items
- artifacts and physical copies of primary source materials (for instance historical documents) are generally recognized as valuable - but if teachers want to improve word learning and later retrieval, then direct hands-on experiences should be linked with words / verbal labels at the same time

Word Retrieval and Manipulation
Different Word Retrieval - Picture and Sound /Japanese
Hippocampal and Brain Stem Activation during Word Retrieval after Repeated and Semantic Encoding
Sentence Imagery
Word Finding Difficulties in the Classroom
ENL Blog: Gestures and Word Retrieval
Concrete and Abstract Word Differences in Dyslexics
Artifacts in the Science Classroom
Teacher Resources - Using Primary Sources in the Classroom
Spatially Gifted, Verbally Inconvenienced

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