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New language learning in adults possible with nerve stimulation


Key points from article :

New in-ear device can help people learn unfamiliar sounds in a new language.

It is an earbud-like electrode that can stimulate part of the vagus nerve that extends into the ear.

Tested in 36 English-speaking volunteers, stimulating their nerves a various times.

While performing a task requiring them to identify sounds in Mandarin Chinese, which is unfamiliar.

Twelve of the volunteers didn’t receive any nerve stimulation at all.

Learning is enhanced by synchronising nerve stimulation with presentation of Mandarin speech sounds.

Participants who received nerve stimulation were 13 % better at classifying tones in Mandarin.

Achieving peak performance twice as quickly as those who wore device but didn’t receive stimulation.

Vagus nerve stimulation may enhance learning.

This is by helping individuals pay attention to the right things during the learning process.

Researchers from University of California, San Francisco, published in npj Science of Learning.

Non-invasive ear device could soon help to better connect the world through speech

Mentioned in this article:


Assistant Professor, Neurological Surgery UCSF


Online-only open access journal