Protect Your Brain and Slow Down its Ageing with Languages

by Jun 3, 2014blog

Alejandra Fonseca

Researchers have learned that learning another language protects the brain, boost its power and delay its ageing.

Learning another foreign language has proven to have many benefits. It can protect the brain and slow down its ageing as well as boost its power. That is aside from the fact that learning another language is beneficial to those who are seeking employment today. According to a University of Edinburgh study, learning a new language even in adulthood provides positive effects on the brain. From their study of over 250 people whose ages ranged from 11 to 70, it was found out that they have improved their intelligence, verbal fluency and reading with language learning. They had also conducted a study previously which suggested that the delay in the beginnings of dementia can be attributed to being bilingual.

Search for answers

The study was conducted to see if learning a new language would improve the cognitive functions or if people with better cognitive functions have the capacity to be bilingual.

The study aimed to find if cognitive functions would improve by learning another language or if people that already displayed good cognitive skills would be more apt to speak more languages. Dr. Thomas Bak, who is from the Center for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology of Edinburgh University, believed that the answers to the questions have been found.

Data from intelligence tests of the respondents when they were 11 years old were used to compare to the results when they were tested in their 70s. The study, which was conducted from 2008 to 2010, was aimed to see how their cognitive abilities have changed through the years. All of them were born in Edinburgh and all of them spoke English and another language. The results were indeed startling. Out of the 262 that participated in the research, 65 learned a second language after age 18 while 195 learned a second language before they turned 18.

The respondents that spoke two to more languages all displayed increased cognitive abilities, especially in reading and general intelligence.

Boosting brain power

Whether the individuals learned another language earlier or later in life, the positive effects were present.

According to researchers from the Northwestern University in the United States, bilingualism is akin to brain training as it is a form of mental workout. Their study also revealed that bilinguals respond to sound better. In the test of 48 volunteer students, they found that those that only spoke English and those that were bilingual responded to different sounds in the same way under quiet laboratory conditions. When noisy chatter was introduced, those that were bilingual were able to tune in to all the important information and blocked out unnecessary chatter.

Scientists were also able to confirm that differences in formal education is not an issue since this advantage of being bilingual is also apparent in people that are illiterate. The results of the study were published in the Annals of Neurology.

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