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Monday, June 26, 2017
There’s yet more evidence suggesting that learning a second language can boost your brainpower, this time from research published in the July 15, 2015, issue of the journal Cerebral Cortex. The study offers physical proof of brain changes associated with bilingualism by finding indications of greater gray matter volume in the brains of individuals who speak two languages than in those who speak only one language.
In a comparison of brain scans of monolingual
participants with those of bilingual participants, the researchers found that bilingual participants had greater volume in the frontal and parietal brain regions responsible for brain functions involving executive control, which includes abilities such as short-term memory, attention and inhibition. The study authors believe the increased need for cognitive control required to manage two languages results in the gray-matter increase.
Earlier findings suggest that the brain-boost associated with learning a second language can be acquired at any age. A study of monolingual and bilingual individuals that involved a comparison of participants who learned a second language in childhood with others who learned a second language in adulthood, found no difference in the benefits associated with learning more than one language. That research, published in June 2014 in the Annals of Neurology, found that adult learners benefited as greatly as childhood learners, doing much better on mental skills tests in their early 70s than monolingual participants, especially in areas involving reading skills and general intelligence.
This article originally appeared in Mind, Mood & Memory, a publication of the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital dedicated to maintaining mental fitness from middle age and beyond.
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