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Feb 23, 2020

Is the polyglot brain different? MIT researchers are trying to find out

Posted by in categories: internet, neuroscience

There are more theories than facts about polyglots. Because internet lists of polyglots identify mainly men, there’s the belief that the male brain is more predisposed to multilingualism. Others believe that polyglots are disproportionately gay and/or left-handed.

These unfounded theories infuriate Ev Fedorenko, a cognitive neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Her lab is conducting a study seeking to dispel them and establish a basic understanding of how the polyglot brain works.

Recently, a polyglot named Susanna Zaraysky submitted to a two-hour session of tests inside an fMRI machine. Zaraysky speaks nine languages, most of them the usual suspects — French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian — but also Ladino, the version of Spanish spoken by Jews who were expelled from Spain in the 15th century.

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