Degree Name

BA

Department

Neuroscience

College

Family, Home, and Social Sciences

Defense Date

2021-06-08

Publication Date

2021-06-11

First Faculty Advisor

Dr. Brock Kirwan

First Faculty Reader

Dr. Becky Lundwall

Honors Coordinator

Dr. Rebekka Matheson

Keywords

Alzheimer's Disease, Default Mode Network, Language Learning, fMRI, Functional Connectivity, Mnemonic Similarity Task

Abstract

Alzheimer’s disease continues to be a problem that medicine has few answers for. As a result, much research has been focused on finding a cure as well as interventions to help prevent the onset of the disease. One such intervention that has been proposed is to improve the brain’s efficiency and connectivity. A controversial method of achieving these results is through second language acquisition. Many provide evidence for or against the benefits of this intervention, but much remains unclear. Most of these studies focus on cognitive function and functional connectivity in language areas, but the default mode network, which is known to align with the earliest regions affected by Alzheimer’s disease, has been largely unexplored. This paper analyzes the changes in memory performance and functional connectivity of the default mode network in middle to older aged subjects who participated in a three month long Spanish course. There were no significant changes in memory and the results suggest that the changes in functional connectivity caused by the language course were not related to memory. Changes in functional connectivity were found to be significant in three of nine regions of interest (ROIs) in the default mode network including the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) and inferior parietal lobes, which were identified by Greicius et al. (2004) as being areas affected early on in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. These findings provide additional evidence that second language learning at an advanced age does improve functional connectivity and help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

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