Brain and Behavior

Impact of Environment on the Brain

How does language exposure affect brain development?

The human brain is uniquely designed to learn and process language. This differentiates us from every other animal on earth. Children are born with the capacity to recognize sounds made in any language. With exposure to their native language, however, the neural circuits associated with sounds from their own language will be strengthened and those associated with the sounds of other languages will atrophy. In this way, children become hardwired to speak and understand their native language. Children can learn other languages, of course, but second languages are processed somewhat differently than are native languages. Moreover, as children grow older, it becomes more difficult to learn new languages.


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