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The ability to process complex syntax is a human characteristic. The development of language comprehension and articulation takes place over a certain period of time during childhood. What happens in the brain on a neural biological level during language acquisition is still unclear. The research explained in this video uses methods that detect and monitor brain activity to determine changes and patterns on the scale of milliseconds. This allows to see maturation and to follow connections between different brain areas, helping our understanding of where language develops. ANGELA D. FRIEDERICI illustrates that she and her fellow researchers found a particular fiber track which connects two regions of the brain and is responsible for syntax comprehension. While most animals do not have this fiber track or only a less developed one, the question of language representation can also be expanded as an example of learning processes in the brain in general. The research proves that brain development determines what is possible in terms of learning at the defined moment in life.


Angela D. Friederici is a member of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig. Friederici holds an Honorary Professorship in Psychology at Leipzig University, in Linguistics at the University of Potsdam and in Medicine at the Charité Berlin. Since 2014, Friederici is the Vice-President of the Max Planck Society.

Friederici’s field of expertise is psycholinguistics. Through her interdisciplinary training, she is looking at the representation of language in the brain and how this relates to the overall learning process.


Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences

The studies look into the perception, planning, and generation of human cognitive abilities and cerebral processes, and analyse the interaction and common functional bases of their production and perception. Other research focuses on plastic changes in the human brain and the influence this has on various cognitive abilities, and also the neuronal and hormonal basis of modern diseases such as high blood pressure and obesity. In addition, the further development of imaging methods for the neurosciences is a focal point of research at the Institute.

The MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences provides an exciting framework for these topical and alluring theoretical domains, with the full gamut of cognitive and neuroscientific methodology available under one roof.

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Original publication

The Ontogeny of the Cortical Language Network

Skeide Michael A. and Friederici Angela D.
Nature Reviews Neuroscience
Published in 2016

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Brain Functional and Structural Predictors of Language Performance

Skeide Michael A., Friederici Angela D. and Brauer Jens
Cerebral Cortex
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Building by Syntax: The Neural Basis of Minimal Linguistic Structures

Friederici Angela D., Zaccarella Emiliano, Meyer Lars and Makuuchi Michiru
Cerebral Cortex
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Merge in the Human Brain: A Sub-Region Based Functional Investigation in the Left Pars Opercularis

Friederici Angela D. and Zaccarella Emiliano
Frontiers in Psychology
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The Brain Differentiates Human and Non-Human Grammars: Functional Localization and Structural Connectivity

Friederici Angela D., Bahlmann Jörg, Heim Stefan, Schubotz Ricarda I. and Anwander Alfred
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Published in 2006
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