A Bilingual Brain is a Healthy Brain

By Gerald Lynch on at

I bet you wish now you had listened a bit more closely in your French and Spanish lessons, right? A new study by researchers at the University of Edinburgh suggests that taking up a second language can have a positive effect on your brain, slowing down the ageing process and delaying the onset of dementia.

The study took data from intelligence tests of 262 11-year old Edinburgh born subjects, and tested their cognitive abilities again when they reached their seventies. All participants could speak at least one second language -- the vast majority learning a language before the age of 18.

All exceeded expectations based on baseline estimations when performing intelligence tests again in their seventies. Dr Thomas Bak, from the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh called the correlation "meaningful", with the increased attention and focus of the participants difficult to explain beyond a second language having a beneficial influence. This was regardless of the age at which the language was learned. The team looks to continue research in the subject, particularly on the effect that actively using a second language has on the brain. Either way, if ever you needed an excuse to dust off that Chinese for Dummies book, this is it. [Annals of Neurology via BBC]

Image Credit: Education concept: schoolboy learn universal language at class from Shutterstock.com