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Lecturer examines link between brain and language 

Professor says learning new languages affects thought, relationships

Professor says learning new languages affects thought, relationships. Sachiko Koyama lectured on the scientific advantages made in brain-lingual connections. Photo by Vanessa Gomez.

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The human brain is a remarkably complex organ that controls every function of the body, including speech.

On Tuesday, psychology professor Sachiko Koyama talked about the connection between neural, or brain signals and natural speech comprehension at her lecture “Brain and Language: New Techniques, New Findings.”

“Finding neural signals for the assessment of natural speech comprehension is the main objective,” Koyama said.

Koyama began by showing images and graphs of the human brain and explaining the clinical history of language study.

Koyama went on to elaborate on how things like multilingual abilities influence people’s thought processes.

“The impact of each language in thinking is not well revealed yet,” Koyama said, “but one thing is for sure, that learning multi-languages at any age gives a lot of opportunity for our thinking of culture, relationships and many other things.”

Koyama explained that she believes her Japanese background helps her use and comprehend verbal language differently than someone from another country.

“I am a Japanese speaker and so I understand and use language differently, than someone who comes from another country and speaks another language.”

Kristen Young, the director of the office of international students and scholars, shared her thoughts about the lecture.

“I was very interested in seeing what international scholars are coming to UNLV and doing,” Young said.

Young talked about some of the things that she learned from attending the lecture.

“I didn’t know that you could tell what a person is thinking and if they comprehend something just by using an electric device,” Young said. “That is very helpful for example for autistic children who cannot verbalize if they understand something. You can tell if they understand it just by looking at the device.”

Young explained how she believes that language and people’s comprehension of language has evolved over the years.

“I think that, in English especially, we are constantly adding words to the language because of the technology,” Young said, “so that is always very interesting to me.”

Professor Koyama’s lecture was a part of UNLV’s International Awareness Week that was designed to get students more involved with and informed about the world.

“People from different countries use languages that are not English,” Koyama said, “so language learning is a good topic and is very important for international communication.”

“I really appreciate that this campus is aware of the need to be more global and to know about the world,” Young said. “I am glad to see that there is an interest in global awareness.”

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