Motor cortex causally contributes to vocabulary translation following sensorimotor-enriched training
Sprache des Titels:
The role of the motor cortex in perceptual and cognitive functions is highly controversial. Here, we investigated the hypothesis that the motor cortex can be instrumental for translating foreign language vocabulary. Human participants of both sexes were trained on foreign language (L2) words and their native language translations over four consecutive days. L2 words were accompanied by complementary gestures (sensorimotor enrichment) or pictures (sensory enrichment). Following training, participants translated the auditorily-presented L2 words that they had learned. During translation, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) was applied bilaterally to a site within the primary motor cortex (Brodmann Area 4) located in the vicinity of the arm functional compartment. Responses within the stimulated motor region have previously been found to correlate with behavioral benefits of sensorimotor-enriched L2 vocabulary learning. Compared to sham stimulation, effective perturbation by rTMS slowed down the translation of sensorimotor-enriched L2 words-but not sensory-enriched L2 words. This finding suggests that sensorimotor-enriched training induced changes in L2 representations within the motor cortex, which in turn facilitated the translation of L2 words. The motor cortex may play a causal role in precipitating sensorimotor-based learning benefits, and may directly aid in remembering the native language translations of foreign language words following sensorimotor-enriched training. These findings support multisensory theories of learning while challenging reactivation-based theories.