Shadowing and reading aloud both involve multiple complex cognitive processes, and both are considered effective methods for second-language learning. The working memory system, particularly the phonological loop, has been suggested to be involved in shadowing and reading aloud. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of a 4-week intensive adaptive training including shadowing and reading aloud of second language on working-memory capacity, regional gray matter volume (rGMV), and functional activation related to the n-back working-memory task in young adults. The results showed that compared with the training groups without speaking (listening to compressed speech and active control involving the second language), the training groups with speaking (shadowing and reading aloud) showed a tendency for greater test-retest increases in digit-span scores, and significantly greater test-retest decreases in N-back task reaction time (increase in working memory performance). Imaging analyses revealed compared with the active control group, shadowing group exhibited decreases in rGMV and brain activity during the working memory task (2-back task), in the left cerebellum and reading group exhibited decreases in them in the right anterior insula. These regions are parts of the phonological loop, suggesting the presence of training-induced neural plasticity in these neurocognitive mechanisms.
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