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Caitlin Jeschke's picture

memory inhibition

I wrote my first web paper about memory inhibition and its role in various mental processes, including learning new languages.  There have been a number of very interesting studies on students learning new languages as adults, and results suggest that, during the process of language acquisition, the brain may actually temporarily block access to one's native language so that the new language can be learned.  I am also intrigued by how such inhibitions might take place, and which pathways would need to be activated/inhibited. 

This year, I began studying my third language (Spanish) and I have been able to make some interesting observations from personal experience.  I found that, at the beginning of the year, whenever I tried to say something in Spanish, French (my second language) would come out.  Over the next several months, this tendency slowly decreased.  I wondered why learning my third language was such a different experience from learning my second.  Then I thought about the situation in terms of changing neuron pathways and I began to make sense of things a little more.  The way I see it, when I had learned French several years before, I had essentially taught my brain to inhibit the "English" and redirect signals to the box that stores languages acquired later in life (or something along those lines).  Now, in Spanish class, I was inhibiting the English words, and so signals were once again being directed to "French" (as they had become accustomed to do), only what I really wanted was to inhibit both of these languages and send signals to a completely new area, in essence "re-re-wiring" pathways.  Or at least that's what I came up with.  This could be the type of process that occurs in the cortex every time a particular behavior is adapted.

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